Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Unique Time Capsule



My regular blog readers know that my husband and I are volunteers at the very beautiful, National Landmarked and historic Green-Wood Cemetery located on Fifth Avenue and 25th Street in Brooklyn, New York. We have worked on the Civil War Veteran Project at the cemetery for many years, which I have blogged about many times in the past, as well as other significant cemetery events, under this blog label.  While the Civil War Veteran Project is still in progress, the Green-Wood Cemetery  Historic Fund, in conjunction with the cemetery historian, Jeff Richman, and a Brooklyn College professor and college archivist, Anthony Cucchiara, have also involved the volunteers in a new project--preserving the cemetery's records of its over half million permanent residents.



The cemetery's file cabinets are full of letters, photographs, books and blueprints dating back to the year it was founded in 1838. None of them have been archivally preserved or stored and as time progressed many of these documents were in danger of being lost to decay.



As the volunteers work in the cemetery offices to preserve these files, we wear special cotton gloves to protect the documents from our finger oils. We carefully unfold these documents from their present storage in envelopes and place them in numerical order in archival sleeves. Photographs are placed in glassine archival envelopes. Those sleeves and envelopes are then placed in archival boxes which will now be stored in climate controlled archives room.


We are amazed and intrigued by the documents we are unfolding--19th century letterheads of undertakers, hotels and businesses, signatures of the famous, photographs of the cemetery and monuments, family trees, international and domestic telegraphs, burial programs and personal correspondences from the year 1838 until the present.


We feel as if we have opened a time capsule of 172 years worth of lives that have left their marks upon this paper. It is a fascinating look into the past as these records are preserved for prosperity.



Eventually, the Green-Wood Historic Fund will scan these records and make them available to family members, genealogists and researchers. It will take many hours of work to accomplish this task, but we feel honored to be a part of it. If anyone reading this post is in the New York City area and would like to help in the project you can contact the cemetery though their volunteer form at this link. Be a part of history!



I'm linking to "Mosaic Monday" with Mary of The Little Red House blog, and My World Tuesday with Klaus and all the My World contributors. Please visit their blogs and enjoy their special blog events!



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55 comments:

Farmchick said...

What a great way to spend some volunteer time. Nice to see these documents being preserved with loving care.

Claudia said...

What a beautiful and worthy project. Just touching these documents that give you a glimpse into other lives would be electric! Kudos to you for volunteering.

Pondside said...

This is the first time I've heard of such a volunteer project. It's so worthwhile! When we were searching for my great grandmother's grave we were dependent on old family stories and faded memories, as the cemetery, which was still in use, had very poor records.

black eyed susans kitchen said...

This place just gets more fascinating! I love all of the history to be learned from the cemetery and now the archives.Stay cool this week!!

Snap said...

What fun! A great and important project. Such wonderful history and treasures. You go, Pat (and your husband)!!!

The Gathering Place said...

That is a wonderful service. I'm sure it is interesting, too.

Buttercup said...

What a great idea. This would be a terrific project. One of my interests in graduate school was 19th century American religious history and I've done archive work with our synagogue. Visited HomeGoods today and thought of you.

Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

Love that you are helping with this, Pat! Preservation is dear to my heart. Thank you for being a part of serving our history. blessings ~ tanna

Lorrie said...

What an interesting place to volunteer. I'd get sidetracked into reading each document and speculating about the life of the writer.

La said...

What a great opportunity. I know this is right up your alley.

Have a great week!

Carol said...

It is a time capsule and it is so cool that you are a part of it. Preserving history, that is an amazing thing. I could just imagine the interesting things that you'll find. Terrific project!

Vee said...

Oh it is wonderful work you are doing and the reward must be the interesting things that you discover. Thank you for sharing this information with us.

Barbara F. said...

This is a great volunteer project and I know you and Vinny really enjoy this. You have a special opportunity to hold pieces of history in your hands. xo

Bernie said...

What fascinating work. That's definitely a worthwhile enterprise.

pam said...

so cool

Willow said...

What a fascinating project. I wish I lived over there :)

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Pat, That has to be a fabulous volunteer job. I would love to see some of those old documents. I'm glad they are being preserved...

I love seeing that handwriting.. SO gorgeous... AND---I heard that some schools aren't even going to offer cursive writing anymore... I think that is kinda sad.

Hugs,
Betsy

Ginny said...

What a wonderful thing to be involved in!! Over half a million people buried here?? How can that be? It boggles the mind!! I would imagine your progress is slowed down by finding very interesting documents to read!

Annie said...

What a great project and how much I wished I was close enough to be part of it all.
They are lucky to have you Pat. You care so much and it shows.
Lovely post.

Jilly said...

Useful information like this one must be kept and maintained so I will put this one on my bookmark list! Thanks for this wonderful post and hoping to post more of this!
porn addiction

Houseelf said...

So brilliant that these survive. You find out so much about a time and culture from adverts surrounding things like news articles, so these papers will be an invaluable source for researchers.

Riet said...

HI Pat and good morning. What a beautiful project to be voluntering in and how wonderful to see all these old documents. Wonderful post. Have a great day
Riet

Old Kitty said...

Yay for archive and record management!!! And YAY for volunteers too - so essential if these precious fragile records are to be preserved for all time! Lovely!!!!! Take care
x

eileeninmd said...

What a great post and neat place to volunteer. I just started working on my family tree and I know someone would be very happy to see some of these documents scanned. Thanks for sharing, have a great week!

Catherine said...

It is nice to know that these small bits of history will not be lost thanks to volunteers like you and your husband.

Veronica said...

Hi Pat. What an amazing project to be involved in.I can just imagine how enthralled you must be with the contents of these old documents. Preserving history is such a worthwhile endevour! Well done for great work.

Veronica
www.tasselsandtwigs.blogspot.com

La Petite Gallery said...

This is a wonderful place to volunteer. It is so interesting, fasinating letters. Such history
I would love reading those. yvonne

Ola said...

this is really an unusual type of voluntary job! You have an oportunity to discover very surprising documents!

diane b said...

What fascinating volunteer work. Do you get waylaid reading the archives?

PⒿ @ $ € € ₦$ ₣®0₥... said...

Coming to your blog each day is an adventure for me. I always find myself saying "Wow" or "whoa" or making sharp intakes of breath....something audible.

You take me places I would otherwise not get an opportunity to see. And you're a skilled tour guide.

I see a book or two in your future.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

This is really cool Pat. I love seeing the designs on these old documents and wondering what life was like for those people back then. It's so great that you and hubs have volunteered to help out.

Gardening in a Sandbox said...

What an extraordinary priviledge to hold a part of history in your hands. Are they taking photographs also of all of these papers? I just hate to see bits of history lost. V

GrandmaK said...

Thank you for sharing bits of your journey through the past. I noticed how beautiful the script was on most of the records...works of art aren't they? Have a grand day! Cathy

Tracy said...

I just love the history & stories you dig up & share for us, Pat. That place is fascinating! So nice to catch up with you here. We are still in great shock & sadness over the tragedy that happened here this past weekend. ((HUGS))

Shirley said...

This must be fascinating work! Good to see history preserved.

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

I like that...volunteering to be a part of such an historic project! I think I would become quite absorbed in reading those old letters and documents. How important to preserve the records from the past!

Cindy said...

How interesting that must be, I had no idea people did such things as this. I'm sure you are enjoying yourself. I love history, I would enjoy doing something like that, too.
Cindy

Sea Witch said...

What a gift of love you and your honey have given to this project. I suspect you derive as much out of it as your give back. Sea Witch

Ingmarie We said...

It is always so interesting to visit your blog. A very rewarding project to be involved in. You and your husband are doing a great work.

Jeanne said...

Hi Pat, what a worthy thing to do. I know you are enjoying the pieces of history you unfold in your preservation work. I would love to do that,but not from NC.

Happy days to you dear Pat.
Hugs, Jeanne

Anne said...

What a wonderful and worthwhile project to be involved in, if I lived there I would be banging the door down to get involved!

Lew said...

Beautiful shot of the cemetery and chapel! And a wonderful project to be undertaken by volunteers! When you finish tere, maybe you can help out Arlington National Cemetery.

As for my hawks, this pair is young, but I think they stay yearround. I know I have seen others in the winter.

EG Wow said...

I think it's wonderful that history is being preserved. Kudos to you for being one of the helpers!

Jo said...

oh how beautiful those documents are ... both in design and in handwritten fonts ... i swear the art of cursive writing is disappearing and it is wonderful to see so many samples ... and then the history ... what a wonderful place to volunteer ... it looks fascinating!!!

steviewren said...

I would be so fascinated by what I found...I'm not sure I would get any work done. I would just want to sit and read and photograph everything. What a wonderful opportunity the both of you have to see history up close and personal.

Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes said...

This is such wonderful and important work! Just think of all the families you'll be helping locate relatives in the years to come!

From the Kitchen said...

How interesting this work must be! To touch history in such a way is to touch the future as well.

Best,
Bonnie

Oliag said...

Wish I could do it!

Cathy said...

What a wonderful opportunity to get a glimpse of the past and be a part of something so important. You must find some very interesting bits of information.

Sheila said...

Pat the work you are doing would be fascinating. I hope that some readers are encouraged to volunteer because of the information you've shared in this post. Since I've returned from Italy I've been filling in at our local archives as I often do when the archivist is on holidays. It's just open two afternoons a week but is a treasure trove of information. I've had some interesting visitors in the past couple of weeks and expect to have a busy afternoon today because it's the Centennial Celebration in our small town this coming weekend. It's wonderful that you and your husband are both volunteers!

Pie Lady Pat said...

Yes, fascinating, indeed! Recently I sorted through a bundle of 1940's dress patterns I picked up at an estate sale. In the midst of them were a dozen 1947 letters from two young Swiss ladies written to a Michigan gal.... beautiful hand-writing and historically fun to read!

Roz from 'la bella vita' said...

I am so appreciative of the work that your husband and you are part of regarding preservation of our history. It's so important! I love the penmanship used on the old documents!

Annesphamily said...

I am always enjoying your post but this is so amazing. I love seeing old documents and I think it must be so wonderful to look over these. Your imagination can really get away from you! What a beautiful way to volunteer. Blessings to you Pat! You are one of a kind. Anne

Jenny said...

This would be such rewarding work. Touching history. Wow.

Gracie said...

I love reading at old papers reminding us about what life has been back then. Thanks for sharing your experience.