Florida Public Archaeology Network advice on cemetery cleanups

Historic City News readers are reminded that our historic cemeteries are in critical need of care and attention.  But before you rush out and adopt an overgrown cemetery, there are some important things that you need to know first.

You can help by removing dense vegetation and making pathways safe for family members and the public to visit.  No matter how careful you are, Public Archaeology Coordinator Emily Jane Murray, M.A., recommends that you first obtain written landowner permission since many cemeteries are owned by private individuals, corporations, churches, or local government.

Being a good cemetery steward includes good etiquette:

  • Leave dogs at home
  • Take away any trash you collect
  • Don’t use bleach or roundup! They contain salts that destroy stones and metals over time.
  • Take lots of before and after pictures, but rubbings degrade stone over time and are never recommended.
  • If your cleanup makes the news, realize that media attention often leads to vandalism.  Alert local law enforcement to increase patrols.

It is also important that you be aware that all human burials in Florida are protected by state law (Chapter 872).   Offering to help clean a cemetery can be a good thing for the community, but it’s against the law to disturb the burial site.

Take care not to disturb gravestones, footstones, artifacts like stone, glass, shell or pottery, fencing, railing, curbing, or memorial trees, shrubs, and plants.

Grave goods such as stones, glass, pottery, flags, flowers, shells, and any other funerary plantings, such as coontie ferns, are protected under state law unless specified as an exemption in a cemetery management plan.

Attending a Cemetery Resource Protection Training course in your area can better prepare you to aid in the preservation of our historic cemeteries effectively, safely and legally.  FPAN is co-hosting a training program on Saturday, October 5 starting at 9:00 a.m.

Join staff instructors this weekend to learn about proper cemetery care and protection.  You will explore cemeteries as historical resources, laws that protect cemeteries, conserving headstones and markers, managing cemetery landscapes, and practice hands-on headstone cleaning using a safe D2 cleaning solution.

Registration is $15 and includes a sample of a safe D2 cleaning solution. To register, or for more info, contact Emily Jane Murray at emurray@flagler.edu or (904) 392-7874. The morning session convenes at St James Baptist Church located at 153037 CR-108 in Yulee, FL followed by an afternoon session at Martin Cemetery on CR-108.  The program concludes at 3:00 p.m. 

The Florida Public Archaeology Network is dedicated to the protection of cultural resources, both on land and underwater, and to involving the public in the study of their past. Regional centers around Florida serve as clearinghouses for information, institutions for learning and training, and headquarters for public participation in archaeology.  FPAN is a program of the University of West Florida Division of Anthropology and Archaeology.