Welcome to The Public History of Cemeteries! This site aims to help local cemeteries engage their communities in new and innovative ways.
Cemeteries are unique spaces. They are homes for the dead but also places for the living to visit and utilize. They are places you can go to enjoy history, philosophy, green space, walking paths, plants, and animals. They are also places for mourning and reflection. This website is a tool for you, as cemetery steward, to learn about encouraging people to think of, and more importantly, use your cemetery as community space.
Cemeteries, and our relationships to them, have changed over the centuries. The first rural cemetery in America, Mount Auburn, was envisioned partly as a community park and walking area for the residents of Boston. Cemetery space has evolved since then. Some cemeteries are valued as quiet contemplative space, and some are important spaces for events, history tours, and even weddings.
What is right for your cemetery? How do we, as the people who care about and utilize cemetery space, encourage other people to be just as excited about them, while also balancing the interworking forces of history, nature, and spirituality that inhabits each cemetery? The options presented in this website aim to help you maintain this balance, and encourage people to think of the community cemetery as their community cemetery.
Keep in mind that not every suggestion here will work well for every cemetery. Listen to the people who care about your space but don’t be afraid to try something new. In the Public History of Cemeteries Survey, which informed many of the opinions presented here, people volunteered for cemeteries because they cared about the history, beauty, and people buried in the cemetery. Over 80% of respondents were interested in attending an event at the cemetery! Keep that in mind as you experiment with new ideas for your community space!