As a companion to your cemetery walk, why not create an “armchair” cemetery walk? Or a program on cemetery symbolism? If you love wandering around old cemeteries, make an educational slide program to share your information with others!
All you need is a digital camera, a computer and a digital projector to get started. PowerPoint has many pre-made templates that will help you create an attractive slide program.
If you work or volunteer in a museum, schedule your program as part of a lecture series or as a standalone event. If you don’t work in a museum, approach the education staff and offer to give your program. (Many museums have digital projectors you can use, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t have one of your own.)
There are many different ways to approach a program on cemeteries. Here are some ideas.
An “Armchair” Cemetery Walk
Not everyone is able to attend a cemetery walk. The terrain can be a challenge to older people or those with limited mobility. So why not bring the cemetery to them?
Take photos of the stones you visit on your cemetery walk and re-create the experience through a slide show. Include archival images of the people you are “visiting,” plus additional related photos of their homes, business, civic activities and recreational pursuits. One advantage to this format is they don’t have to be close together they way they do on a real cemetery walk. You might even want to create themes based on who you include, such as politicians, entertainers or sports figures.
Cemeteries are full of interesting stories, if you know where to look. Once you become “tuned in” to cemetery symbols, you will see them everywhere you turn.
Stories in Stone by Doug Keister is the best resource to decode cemetery symbolism (see link below). Purchase a copy and keep it in your car when you travel to a cemetery. Take close up photos of the flowers, animals and other symbols you find, look up their meanings and share them with your audience. Organize your program into themes such as religious symbols, personal symbols, flora and fauna.
Create a program based on the different kinds of stones you’ve seen while wandering cemeteries. There are many different mausoleums, statues and markers to discuss. Funerary architecture often mimics established popular styles such as Greek Revival, Baroque and Romanesque. Study books on the topic until you can classify your own photos accordingly.
The Rural Cemetery Movement began after the Civil War and continued through the Victorian era. Cemeteries were used as parks and were the first “green spaces” ever created. Research more about this movement and tie your local cemetery into general cemetery history.
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This is the best resource I've found for decoding cemetery symbolism. I never travel to a cemetery without it!