With over 100,000 people commemorated here, Mount Auburn Cemetery has served as a record for countless memories and historical periods ever since its founding. Our goal is to offer a deeper look at these diverse individuals whenever possible, with the stories and personalities beyond the monuments that represent them today. Thanks to a 2017 Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we have had the opportunity to celebrate the lives and preserve the memories of our “residents” in new ways, through a series of digitization days that we began hosting in 2018. On the first Friday of each month, anyone with loved ones or ancestors buried at Mount Auburn can sign up to bring in family materials such as photographs and letters to have them digitized, free of charge. Not only are these documents preserved for the future, but they can help us tell a deeper story of the people buried at Mount Auburn through our new Online Memorial Pages feature on our website at www.mountauburn.org/OnlineMemorialPages.
So far, we have had participants bring materials of many ages, from more recently-deceased loved ones to ancestors from generations past, to take advantage of the opportunity to preserve these records of their family’s history. One recent highlight from last month’s Digitization Day was a selection of items related to Sgt. Nathaniel Preston Harris of Brookline (1841- 1863), who died of disease while serving in the Civil War. Digitizing the records of his life and service – including his photograph and the shipping papers to have his remains transported home for his funeral in Boston and burial at Mount Auburn – was a poignant reminder of the many individuals who were part of this larger story, and the countless families impacted by the war. Family archival materials can add personal context and depth to not only Mount Auburn’s own records, but the larger narrative of our nation’s history, and we welcome the opportunity to continue preserving these stories for the years to come.
To take part in one of our free Digitization Days, please sign up at https://mountauburn.org/events/ (select the first Friday of the month you wish to attend). Participants can bring in three-to-five documents, photographs, or small objects illustrating a person’s life. After we scan or photograph these materials, we will return them to you along with a flash drive of your digitized files and instructions on how to add these images to Mount Auburn’s Online Memorial Pages.
By Volunteer Docent Robin Hazard Ray
In any season of the year, the serpent-green pillar mounted on the Bridge family lot at the corner of Fir and Spruce Avenues stands out. In summer, it towers over with the pale marble headstones of its neighbors. In winter, it provides a splendid color contrast to the snow and ice on the ground. Its unusual hue ranges from a dark pine green at the top, which is shaped in imitation of an urn, to a paler sea green toward the base.
Close examination of the pillar reveals it to be made from a rather messy metamorphic stone. Swirls of green serpentinite are shot through with white veins; this handsome combination is broken into chunks that swim in a finer gray-green matrix along with half-melted blobs of pale pinkish calcite. Here and there are flakes of a black mineral, identified as magnetite. This kind of rock is called “breccia” (Italian for “broken”) or breccia-conglomerate; breccias, which may be green, yellow, gray, or multicolored, are prized in the stone trade for their rough beauty and range of colors and textures. (more…)
By Volunteer Docent Robin Hazard Ray
The expression “babes in the woods” is used today to describe people who get in over their heads in situations they do not fully understand. But originally Babes in the Woods was a folktale, then a ballad, then a stock script for pantomimes (English theatricals done for the kiddies at Christmastime), as familiar to people of the nineteenth century as Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. As we shall see, it had resonance for several notable people buried at or affiliated with Mount Auburn. (more…)