Cemetery Preservation and Permits
Why preserve or protect burial grounds and cemeteries? They are
memorials to the past that offer a unique view of our history, culture,
and way of life. Their existence adds much to our understanding
of the history of Illinois and its people. There are other important
reasons for people to preserve cemeteries and they include:
• Honoring family, veterans and early pioneers
from the area
• Righting a wrong (vandalism)
• Correcting what time has changed (leaning or toppled markers)
Cemeteries are important reminders of our past and
provide to us a sense of who we are. More importantly, cemeteries
represent a physical legacy for future generations and must be preserved
as a historical resource. Preservation starts with establishing
goals and providing a good training program. Goals of Cemetery Preservation
Training include understanding how to develop a successful cemetery
preservation plan, gaining experience to identify and resolve issues,
and learning proper skills to repair common problems.
For unregistered burial grounds and cemeteries protected under the
Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act (HSRPA), anyone wanting to
probe the ground to locate and recover buried grave markers or to
clean, repair, and reset grave markers must first obtain a permit
from the Illinois Historic Preservation Division. Each of these activities
represents a disturbance to the ground (grave) or to a grave marker.
The permitting process ensures that the proper methods and products
are used when working to preserve a historic cemetery. In addition,
the Division requires that permit applicants attend the Cemetery Preservation
Training, Basic Workshop. The link below takes you to the permit
application for cemetery preservation projects. There are two purposes
for the permit application. One, it is required by law. Second,
it helps you to plan and organize your work. The permit is free.
Information on the workshops is provided below.
cemetery permit application.pdf
The Illinois Historic Preservation Division is
responsible for protecting nonregistered Illinois cemeteries that
are more than 100 years old. The Illinois Department of Natural
Resources (IDNR) owns and manages over 50 cemeteries statewide.
Together both agencies have hosted workshops and provided guidance
to numerous groups responsible for maintaining and preserving cemeteries.
These handbooks provide basic information for individuals or groups
who wish to embark on a successful cemetery preservation program.
The divison has developed a series of
instruction handbooks to help guide you through a cemetery preservation
project. They were developed in response to the many inquires both
agencies have received. Most often, those questions focused on how
to clean and repair gravestones, sources of assistance, and the
laws that govern cemeteries. The first handbook, “Illinois
Historic Cemetery Preservation Handbook: A Guide to Basic Preservation,”
focuses on research, planning, and documentation. It is important
that you research the cemetery, document what is present, and create
a plan of action. The second handbook, “Cemetery
Preservation Training, Part I: Basic Workshop,” focuses
on assessment, planning, probing, cleaning, and simple resetting.
This is the handbook we use for the hands-on Basic Workshop.
Basic cemetery training involves elementary tasks
such as documenting, washing, probing, and resetting certain types
of markers. The Basic Workshop is divided into two parts. In the
morning, we present a Power point presentation on why we preserve
cemeteries and the basic methods we use to do this. Our work highlights
probing for and exposing and cleaning buried markers, resetting
of simple markers. In the afternoon, class participants learn the
proper techniques to probe for and clean buried markers, how to
document the markers, and how to reset simple tablet markers. It’s
a rewarding process!
Advanced cemetery training teaches the more complex
techniques of resetting and repairing additional markers like pillars,
obelisks, and multi-base monuments. The advanced cemetery preservation
workshop has two components. First, we teach participants how to
safely lift markers and how to reset multi-base monuments. During
the second part of the advanced class participants learn about the
use of mortars. We focus on why using mortars is successful, what
mortars are appropriate for historic grave markers, and how to properly
repair fragmented markers. Completion of the Basic Workshop is a
pre-requisite for the Advanced Workshop.
In both basic and advanced cemetery training it is
important to be aware of what techniques to use and what techniques
to avoid. Commonly-used but inappropriate and damaging techniques
include setting stones in concrete, repairing broken markers with
concrete instead of correct mortar, and using common adhesives,
cleaning solutions and techniques that will further damage the marker.
Cemetery Preservation Training Workshops
The IHPA no longer maintains a cemetery preservation program - NO future workshops are planned.