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Register a Cemetery

 

How can I place an Arkansas cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places?

 
Cemeteries are not normally eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places as they serve primarily as a means of an individual’s recognition of family history and as expressions of collective religious and/or ethnic identities. Because cemeteries may embody values beyond personal or family-specific emotions, the National Register criteria allow for listing of cemeteries under certain conditions. A cemetery is eligible if at least 51 percent of the markers are 50 years old or older and it derives its primary significance from one of the following criteria:

 

Contains graves of persons of transcendent importance (of great eminence in their field of endeavor or had a great impact upon the history of their community, state, or nation)
 
Or from its relative age in a particular geographic or cultural context (example: oldest cemetery associated with a town or community’s original settlement period)
 
Or from distinctive design features
 
Or from association with historic events.
 
Fill out the form you will need for the AHPP to determine if your cemetery is eligible for the National Register.
 
What steps should I take to preserve a historic cemetery?
 
There are six steps to preserve a historic cemetery. Additional information is contained in the AHPP’s cemetery preservation manual, “Grave Concerns.”
 
1) Organize your efforts
 
Locate and obtain written permission from the owner. If the owner can not be found, petition the quorum court for permission to conduct work at the cemetery.
 
Conduct research on the site to see what is currently known about your cemetery.
 
Form a group of volunteers, a cemetery association or join forces with an established organization such as a historical society.
 
Define goals and create a plan of action.
 
Become familiar with the laws for historic cemeteries.
 
2) Document your historic cemetery through survey forms, photographs, and maps.
 
Perform a general survey that documents the overall site, recording location, site boundaries, major site features, and provides a historical overview.
 
Conduct an individual marker survey to record a detailed description of each site feature found in a historic cemetery.
 
A condition survey is a before-and after record that should be created whenever work is performed on a site feature, such as cleaning or repair.
 
A vegetation survey is important in identifying historic plantings that are part of the cemetery landscape.
 
Specialized surveys to determine property boundaries and locate lost markers should be carried out as needed. In the future, the records created during the survey process may be all that remains of a historic burial ground.
 
3) Conduct research to learn more about the history and importance of your cemetery.
 
Select a focus for research such as a person buried at the site, the cemetery itself or on a monument maker.
 
Look at primary resources, such as personal papers or public documents, to develop the story of your site.
 
Look at secondary resources, such as books or websites, to help place your cemetery in a historical context.
 
Compile the information and write an analysis.
Store materials in a conservationally sound area.
Develop a policy for use of information by public.
File information with appropriate organizations.
 
4) Clean and maintain your historic cemetery using the greatest care and proper tools, materials, and techniques.
 
If the site has been abandoned, an initial clean-up will be necessary. Take care not to remove or damage cemetery site features.
 
When cleaning markers and other site features of biological growths, dirt and debris, use water and a soft natural hair bristle brush. Never use household cleaners, abrasive tools or power washers to clean a marker.
 
Hire a conservator to repair cracked, chipped and broken monuments.
 
Perform regular maintenance using caution near gravemarkers and other site features.
 
5) Raise funds through one or more of the following methods.
 

 
6) Create awareness products and programs to insure that others understand the importance of the cemetery. Offer well-planned educational experiences and materials that take into account the irreplaceable landscape and relative’s feelings. Many awareness activities can be used to generate funds for preservation projects.
 

 

What resources does the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program offer for cemetery preservation?

 

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program offers a number of services and materials to assist individuals and groups in the preservation of historic cemeteries. Most materials and services are either free or available for a small charge.
 

 

Links

 
Association for Gravestone Studies may be contacted: this group offers resources, a newsletter, workshops and other cemetery related items. A good source for books on cemeteries. You may contact them by writing:  AGS, 278 Main Street, Suite 207, Greenfield, MA, 01301 or visiting their website at http://www.gravestonestudies.org.
 
The National Trust for Historic Preservation published a pamphlet titled Preservation of Historic Burial Grounds (Information Series No. 76, 1993) that might be of interest. Call their national headquarters at (202) 673-4296 or write NTHP at  1785 Massachusetts Ave., N. W., Washington, D.C., 20036 or visit their website at http://www.heritagepreservation.org/programs/SOS/sosmain.htm.

 

The National Register of Historic Places published Bulletin 41, Guidelines for Evaluating and Registering Cemeteries and Burial Places. The bulletin lists a number of resources, as well as related bulletins on the subject of burial grounds. This agency keeps a list of every cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Write: National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, P.O. Box 37127, Washington D. C. 20013-7127 or call (202) 343-9559 or visit http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/index.htm.
 
Save Outdoor Sculpture assists in preserving outdoor sculpture. You may write the SOS at 1730 K Street NW, Suite 566, Washington, DC, 20006; or call at (800) 422-4612 or visit their website at http://www.heritagepreservation.org.
 
The above information has been provided by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and compiled by T. Tenpenny-Lewis.
 
For more information contact them at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/preservation-services/cemetery-preservation/#important