Preserving London’s History
As you probably know, Woodland Cemetery has a long history within the City of London, first opening our doors in 1879. As a result, we have hundreds of historic gravestones that need constant attention, which is where our summer ‘monument conservators’ come in! Our blog has many posts about monument conservation, but this page will provide you with the Do’s & Don’ts of monument conservation, for the visitor.
- Do take photos of the gravestone before you do anything. It is important to have a record of objects before and after treatment;
- Do brush rocks and sand off the surface of the stone before cleaning;
- Do use water and a soft brush to gently clean dirt, debris, lichen, and mosses from the surface of the stone;
- Do use a flashlight at an oblique (low) angle to pick up otherwise unseen ridges of letters on the surface of the gravestone. This is a great trick for reading worn stones; and,
- Do call on the cemetery staff before making any major changes to your gravestones. They are heavy, and if they are off balance or turned, it might require extra help to get the stone stable and level again. The cemetery staff can call a monument conservator if the problem is more complicated!
- Don’t lean or push on gravestones. This is for their safety…and your’s. Gravestones are often held up by gravity and could fall if leaned upon;
- Don’t use a wire brush when cleaning a gravestone. Instead, go with plastic or natural bristles;
- Don’t use any substances beside water on the surface of the gravestones, unless you can get D/2 Biological Cleaner. Soaps, cleansers, and all powders will irreparably damage the stone;
- Don’t try to make the stone easier to read by adding any of the following: chalk, flour, cocoa, paint, cornmeal, corn starch, bleach, shaving cream, talcum powder, whipped cream, markers, baking soda, baking powder, icing sugar, ammonia, peroxide, detergents, etc. They will expand within the surface and destroy the face of the gravestone;
- Don’t take a rubbing. Put the paper crayons away. Rubbings, especially on soft limestone, marble, and sandstone, put pressure on the surface of the stone, and the movement causes particles to break off. This actually damages the stone, making the inscription even harder to read, and it will wear away quicker. If you’d like to preserve a gravestone, take a photo please;
Don’t power wash a gravestone;
- Don’t (pretty please) go probing or otherwise undertaking repairs as a private citizen without the proper training, and without the express permission of the burial ground’s governing body;
- Don’t set your gravestones in cement. The cement traps moisture inside the stone itself, causing it to weather away even faster! Limestone mortar is the way to go; and,
- Don’t pull vines or other larger plants away from gravestones. Cut the roots instead and scrape them off after they are dead. Putting the live plant away could rip off pieces of the stone, as they are attached directly into the surface.
Monument Conservation Pamphlet: How to Clean Your Marker
Interested in cleaning and caring for the gravestones of your family and/or friends yourself?
Check out our pamphlet, ‘How to Clean your Marker’! It is a downloadable PDF to print at home (below) or can be found in our office at Woodland Cemetery.
The pamphlet was created by our 2019 monument conservators Brienna and Robyn and will walk you through the do’s and don’ts of keeping your loved one’s monument in pristine condition.
Download Here: HowToCleanMarker