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Cemeteries in Virginia: A Newsletter from the Department of Historic Resources
April, 2021
In this inaugural issue: *Profile of Central State Hospital's "Unmarked Cemetery" *Evolution of Funerary Symbolism *Mortsafes *Conserving Gravestone *Job Opportunity *News Clips

We are delighted to welcome our early subscribers to DHR's inaugural issue of GraveMatters. Thanks for your interest. We hope you find this publication worthy of your attention and that if you do, you will help spread the word to other potential subscribers.

It is our goal to produce quarterly issues and to feature routine columns that profile historic cemeteries in Virginia, and discuss the stewardship of graveyards and grave markers, funerary iconography, and other topics. If you have specific questions pertaining to such grave matters, please send us your queries, especially about problems or concerns you have with stewardship and preservation of graveyards and their markers or monuments.

Please send your questions, feedback, and comments to randy.jones@dhr.virginia.gov.

Thank you!
Profile of a Historic Cemetery

Central State Hospital’s Unmarked Cemetery

DHR recently completed our mandated biennium Report on the Stewardship and Status of Virginia's State-Owned Historic Property 2021--2023. The following is an excerpt from that report that looks at efforts at Central State Hospital to memorialize its so-called Unmarked Cemetery.
In 1870, the state of Virginia established the first institution in the United States dedicated to the treatment of African Americans with mental illnesses, the Central Lunatic Asylum in Dinwiddie County. The facility, desegregated in 1968, has evolved into today’s Central State Hospital (CSH), part of the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services (DBHDS), and now houses the only maximum-security mental health unit in Virginia. Read more and view photos. . .
Skull and crossbones, known as memento mori, on a grave marker at Aquia Church Cemetery, Stafford Co.

The Evolution of

Funerary Symbolism

DHR archaeologist Joanna Wilson Green offers a brief, illustrated overview of how funerary iconography evolved from the skull and crossbones shown here to more elaborate and softer symbols pertaining to death. She begins by discussing the concept of symbols. She will contribute regularly to GraveMatters, focusing on funerary symbols. She sets the context for future discussions in her inaugural column.
BROKEN FLOWER: An adult life cut short. These may be found singly or as part of a larger bouquet or wreath in which the other flowers symbolize family.
Speaking of funerary symbols, visit our new DHR webpage that offers a guide to Funerary Iconography.
Mortsafe in graveyard


Occasionally with this newsletter, we will write about cemeteries and funerary practices from beyond the Commonwealth and look around the world. Because the United States is a melting pot of cultures, it is also a potpourri of funeral rites and ways to memorialize those who have passed away. There is always a chance you will see something in a cemetery that is unexpected because of this cultural diversity. Mortsafes are one such example, although you probably have never seen one in Virginia. Read more. . .
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Conserving Gravestones

The conservation and preservation of gravestones and cemeteries is an enormous topic that would take a book, or more, to cover. It is also a topic in flux as new approaches, technologies, and cleaning materials are invented, researched, and discovered. We are hoping this newsletter will be a resource for those interested in cemeteries and their preservation. With this in mind, my goal for this column is that it include information about how people can care for cemeteries. Ultimately, we can cover a great deal of information about do-it-yourself tasks or those that call for an expert, along with new discoveries and information, and much more. Read more . . .
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Daughters of Zion Cemetery in Charlottesville.

African American Cemetery & Graves Fund

Beginning in State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2019, though legislation the General Assembly enacted (§10.1-2211.2), the Department of Historic Resources began disbursing funds to any qualified organization to fund
maintenance and care of African American graves in the Commonwealth that have been certified by DHR and documented in DHR's
cultural resources database. Qualified graves/graveyards must have been established before 1900. The grants are appropriated on the basis of the number of graves, monuments, and markers in the
qualifying cemetery multiplied by the rate of $5. Please visit this DHR webpage to see the graveyards and organizations that DHR has certified to receive funds. For more information about the grant program, visit DHR's Grants webpage.

DHR Is Hiring a Cemetery Preservationist!

Cemetery Preservationist (#00083): DHR seeks self-motivated preservation professional to fill the position of Cemetery Preservationist. This position offers a career opportunity for an individual responsible for developing, implementing, and managing a comprehensive historic preservation program for historic cemeteries including the identification, recording, evaluation, registration (if warranted), and appropriate treatment/stewardship of both marked and unmarked cemeteries throughout the state and their markers, gravestones, monuments, fencing, etc. See more information about duties and qualifications. To be considered for this position a completed state application must be received through the on-line employment system by MONDAY, MAY 24, 2021

Cemetery-Related News from Around Virginia and Beyond:

The Outer Banks is not an easy place to be a grave
Dawn Taylor of Avon has begun a campaign to find and clean up cemeteries on Hatteras Island. The people buried there represent some of the oldest names on the Outer Banks . . .

This 86-year-old Virginia cemetery is the final resting place for thousands of pets
Tucked away at the end of a suburban street in western Henrico County is a small cemetery, an intriguing piece of local history: a 2-acre field of graves, decorated with an occasional bouquet of flowers and headstones bearing the names of those interred at their final earthly resting place: Gigi and Boots, Sweet Pea, Rusty and Bonnie Boops, Skippy, Kippy and Tippy, Peanut and Snoopy and Taffy Tu-Tu. . .

Site work unearths 19th century-era coffins at Swansboro development
Richmond BizSense
A townhome development in Richmond’s Swansboro area is picking back up after a grim discovery last summer stopped the project in its tracks. . .

Proposed African American cemetery database pending in Congress
KSAT San Antonio
Alma Adams, of North Carolina, and A. Donald McEachin, of Virginia. ... cemeteries listed in the database to make others aware of their history . . .

Lovettsville Historical Society Works to Restore Mt. Sinai Cemetery
Loudoun Now
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources offers grants to help with those types of projects through its African American Cemetery & Graves Fund . . .

'Even in death, they have to fight for a name'
Prince William Times
Some worry historically Black and Native American cemeteries in ... under a court order through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources' burial . . .

Why Were These Ancient Adults Buried in Jars on the Island of Corsica?
Researchers are unsure of the unusual funerary practice’s purpose but point out that such burials were typically reserved for children . . .

Look Inside a 105-Year-Old Time Capsule
In April 2020, conservators and historians were pleasantly surprised to find that—thanks to smartly designed copper boxes—the ephemera tucked inside a time capsule buried in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery had aged gracefully, a century after being sealed.. .

More headstones found in historic Kernstown cemetery
Northern Virginia Daily
More headstones found in historic Kernstown cemetery. . .