Friday, August 24, 2007


A request for a call number label just came across my desk for the following journal:

Markers: the Annual Journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies

I kid you not. Gravestone studies. I had no idea these people existed. They have a website, a conference, a newsletter, scholarships, all sorts of stuff. They list their mission as: "to foster appreciation of the cultural significance of gravestones and burial grounds through their study and preservation."

Preservation? Are people going around tearing up cemeteries? I'm assuming they mean more than just mowing the lawn once in a while, but what exactly do you preserve in a graveyard? And study? Of what? Burial practices? Styles of stone carving? I know there are people who take rubbings of headstones, but I thought that was more for the family tree. Nope, never occurred to me that a burial ground would need study. I'm intrigued.

Now, this journal is at another campus so I can't flip through it and see what's there. All I have is a filled-out form and some photocopies of the cover and title page. Hmm. I wonder if this is something our local library carries. Apparently the only campus interested in the title is all the way over in York, PA, a longish distance from here.

Now, don't worry. I'm not about to go out and hang around in graveyards. That's my sister's idea of fun, not mine. She chases ghosts.


Anonymous said...

"Poltergeist" aside, burial ground preservation is an issue. The constant razing of open space to make way for new houses and shopping centers often uncovers long-forgotten cemeteries, either tribal sites or the family plot on the back forty of the farmland.

There is also a lot of interesting psychology to headstones. There's a famous cemetery in Philly (name suddenly forgotten) full of famous folks and/or interesting headstone sculptures.

Someone actually created a device to detect premature burial. It was basically a bell with a string run through a tube to the casket. The notion was if you "woke up" in there, you could frantically pull the string until someone came to dig you out. Maybe the inventor was Edgar Allen Poe, who suffered an intense fear of being buried alive.

Amy B.

G said...

Graveyards are good.

From one stone, I discovered that my mother's second husband had been married before, to his employer's daughter, and she had died giving birth to a child whom I knew when I was growing up, but without any idea of the connection. Turned out she had a different father, and was taken in by the grandparents when the mother died. Very interesting - taken together with other known facts, that inscription told me a lot.

I like graveyards.