Four things to consider for cemetery restoration
As people's interest in genealogy and history grows, more people are visiting history graves and cemeteries. These give insight in both family history and that of your local area or Australia as a whole. Unfortunately, many of these sites have been poorly maintained and the ravages of times are showing. While it has long been of interest overseas, cemetery restoration is now drawing attention in Australia. Before you become involved in cemetery restoration consider the four tips below to ensure you respect the past and don't do more harm than good.
- Consider the legal side of things
Look into who is responsible for maintaining the cemetery and seek information from them. Your local council website or state archives are good places to start. See what you need permission for and what can be done independently. Some cemeteries are privately owned, so work with the owners to achieve an outcome that is satisfactory to both of you.
- Simple steps can go a long way
Often one of the best things you can do for a cemetery restoration is to improve the grounds. Removing rubbish, weeding and cutting grass can make a huge difference. This will allow you to see any work that needs to be done to the graves themselves plus make it easier and safer to carry out that work. Keep in mind what improvements will be easiest to maintain over time and what will reduce the risks of further harm being done to graves, such as removing any plants growing over the headstones.
- Choose your products wisely
When it comes to cleaning headstones as part of cemetery restoration make sure you're picking the correct products. Often simple cleaning options such as water, diluted ammonia and soft, natural bristled brushes will be best. They might need a bit more elbow grease than more sophisticated products, but they're less likely to do lasting harm to monuments which predate the use of such artificial compounds. A monument which is one hundred years old will usually be made of very different materials to a modern headstone, so a modern cleaning product may damage it, forever removing important details of the deceased. As well as choosing your cleaning products wisely ensure you're protecting yourself. Appropriate gloves, good footwear, sun protection and a first aid kit are essentials no matter what work you're doing.
- Know your limits!
There are some parts of cemetery restoration that cannot be done well by an amateur restorer. Restoring and preserving damaged headstones, for instance, can be an extremely complex job. If you choose the wrong materials or tools you can do more harm than good. Be aware of your limits and contact a professional in cemetery restoration for advice and assistance. Some funeral homes offer services in grave and cemetery restoration. They will be able to advise what you'll need assistance for versus what you can do on your own. Seeking professional help for anything you're unsure of will be best for a sympathetic, respectful and long lasting cemetery restoration that will honour the people buried there now and for decades to come.