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!
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