Category: Historical Collections & Archives

President Alan Chesney’s Photographic Legacy

April 27, 2021

A former Air Force pilot who served 35 missions in World War II, Alan Chesney was president and trustee of Mount Auburn from 1968 to 1988. During that time, Chesney oversaw the sale of 15 acres of land for family lots and single graves, the addition of 4,000 new grave spaces, and the planting of hundreds of trees and shrubs. He also established the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery (FOMAC) in 1986, a program that continues to promote the appreciation of the Cemetery through its preservation, horticultural rejuvenation, and educational programs. Photo above: Flowering Tree, Wilkinson Monument, Undated.


An Invitation to Help Transcribe Our History — From Home!

May 1, 2020

Mount Auburn is pleased to announce an exciting new transcription project that welcomes your participation in making our history more accessible. The Cemetery’s Historical Collections & Archives staff have preserved our most significant archival documents, but many of these are hand-written 19th-century letters and reports that are not easy to read. By transcribing these materials, researchers will be able to read and search across thousands of pages for the first time. That’s where you come in!

We are launching an innovative web platform that will bring you into direct connection with digitized documents that tell the story of Mount Auburn: the decisions and discourse among the founders, trustees, superintendents, sculptors, gardeners, and lot proprietors relating to the design and daily care of the Cemetery’s landscapes and memorials. By clicking:\mountauburncemetery from your own computer you will be able to choose from a variety of Mount Auburn documents such as superintendents’ letters and trustees’ meeting minutes. Transcribers will find a treasure trove of content including 19th-century sculpture commissions, the Sphinx, Mount Auburn’s first greenhouse and nursery, and Bigelow Chapel stained glass.

We welcome members of the Mount Auburn community as well as interested historians, archivists, and members of the public to help transcribe these records. Your collective contributions will help unlock the secrets of our history and make the completion of this large-scale project possible. Future researchers will be able to read and search these materials, deepening the understanding of Mount Auburn’s role in our country’s history.

1877 letter about finding spring bulbs
December 1877, Superintendent James Lovering wrote that the Gardener was unable to find spring bulbs.

“There’s nothing more exciting than the thrill of deciphering a letter written hundreds of years ago, discovering its contents, and then being able to share it with researchers and the public,” says Curator of Historical Collections & Archives Meg L. Winslow. Winslow thanks consultant Thom Burns, who spearheaded the project. Burns explains, “This program not only fills the immediate need to continue to make our collection available, but it brings Mount Auburn into the forefront of innovation and research. It will allow volunteers, docents, employees, and the public to directly access our most important historical materials. The best thing is that anyone with an internet connection can help transcribe and access our archival collections.”

With your help, a wealth of new content relating to these rich, historical documents will be unlocked—providing new insights into America’s first rural cemetery and the first designed landscape open to the public in North America.

This project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Interested to learn more?

Go to and click “Sign-Up” in the top right corner.

After you have created an account you can return to our landing page,, or search Mount Auburn in “Find a Project.” Now you’re ready to start transcribing! At the bottom of each page you will find an easy-to-follow set of transcription guidelines and a place to leave comments. For more detailed directions email us at:

Lead photo: September 1854, Secretary Henry M. Parker recorded the Mount Auburn trustees vote to purchase three marble statues of “persons distinguished in American History.” The statues were commissioned by Mount Auburn for Bigelow Chapel and today are in the collection of the Harvard Museum.

New Document Transcription Project: Starting to Use “FromThePage” Software

April 5, 2020

Welcome to Transcribing Mount Auburn! Our goal is to make the unique history of Mount Auburn Cemetery available to everyone, anywhere in the world. Delve into Mount Auburn’s founding records and help us transcribe handwritten letters and reports, many of which have never been seen before. Anyone with a computer and internet can help transcribe.

Whether you transcribe only a few pages or volume upon volume, your contribution will preserve our stories for generations to come. You will learn about the rural cemetery movement, landscape design, civil engineering, gardening, and memorial art, while also gaining insight into the thinking and vision of remarkable individuals from Boston and New England.

It is easy to get started with transcribing. The goal is to record what you see on the page. Follow these steps to get started in no time:

Visit the Site:

Go to to explore the site and see digital images of Mount Auburn Cemetery documents. This is the home page for our project.

Create an Account:

On a computer or laptop, visit to create an account. If you are already on the site, click “Sign Up to Transcribe” in the upper right-hand corner.

Select a Document to Transcribe or Review:

Click the “Start Transcribing” button to start a new page or visit one of the three categories: Trustee Minutes, Copying Books, or Letters. Visit the Tutorial Collection to learn from completed transcriptions.


To begin, select a page and then click the “Transcribe” tab. Use the navigation buttons to personalize your screen orientation. Hover over the image to zoom or rotate the document. Now you’re ready to start transcribing! Type the written words as you see them on the page and try to create a faithful representation of the original: Keep original spelling, punctuations, and line-breaks, and don’t add any punctuation or extra words. Try your best to match formatting. Click “Save Changes” during and after you complete each page.


If you have a knack for editing and formatting, you can also choose to edit a completed transcription. Find a page that “Needs Review.” You are the second set of eyes to proofread. Look closely at the original, and make sure the transcription matches it as best as possible. Add any special formatting that is needed. Make sure to get familiar with the Transcription Conventions at the bottom of the page. When the page is finished, uncheck the “Needs Review” box and click “Save Changes.” Feel free to switch back and forth between transcribing and reviewing. Every bit helps!

Formatting and Tips:

Scroll down to read our Transcription Conventions at the bottom of every transcribing page. Click “More Help” for detailed coding and formatting. Don’t get bogged down by adding detailed coding. It’s best to focus on typing out the words and saving formatting for later.


Type any questions and comments about the page you are transcribing in the “Page Notes” at the bottom of each page. Everyone will see what you type and have a chance to reply. Check “Page Notes” for comments when you begin transcribing a page that someone else has started. Enjoy transcribing! You are providing an invaluable service. We hope you enjoy exploring our collections.

Thank you!

Questions or comments? Email