Historic New England advocates for cemetery preservation and maintains five more along with the one at Casey Farm: Peabody Family Burying Ground and Elias Smith Burying Ground, both in Middletown, Mass.; Frost Cemetery in New Castle, N.H.; Goodwin Family Cemetery at Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine; and Rundlet-May House in Portsmouth, N.H., even has a pet cemetery. There are many trusted places to seek advice on cemetery preservation, including the National Park Service and the Association for Gravestone Studies, and they all agree on certain procedures. The first priority is always groundskeeping with the right tools to keep invasive plants down and prevent damage to the stones. Our crew does a great job at Casey Farm! Next is causing no harm through incorrect conservation efforts or trying to do gravestone rubbings. For example, soft marble, which is also susceptible to chemical erosion, must be handled differently from sharply defined but easily shattered slate.
The third is careful cleaning of biological growth like algae and lichens using the gentlest means possible. At Casey Farm, students from Roger Williams University were trained by our staff to examine the stones for weaknesses, wet them with clean water, gently scrub with soft brushes from the ground up, and rinse with water again from the top down. We finished our work with a product that is safe for these surfaces but removes growth called D/2 Biological Solution.
Finally, experts should be consulted to repair broken stones or re-set them in place. Historic New England hired Fannin-Lehner Preservation Associates of Concord, Massachusetts, in 2001 to study and make recommendations for Casey Farm’s cemetery. They demonstrated the technique to direct raking light across a headstone with a mirror to get the best photographs and reported on repairs to some of the older box tombs. Experts can also capture hidden details with advanced photographic techniques and ground-penetrating radar to find lost burials.