Digitization Days: Revealing the Individuals in our Past

March 3, 2019
Shipping receipt for the body of Nathaniel P. Harris who died in the Civil War to be returned to Boston. He is buried on Lot 1544.

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

Nathaniel P. Harris, died in the Civil War 1863, he is buried on Lot 1544, Hibiscus Path.

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 (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.

Who was Alice Lincoln?

November 25, 2018
By Volunteer Docent Robin Hazard Ray

On one of the more out-of-the-way paths at Mount Auburn, under a stone that is barely readable, lie the remains of a woman who changed Boston history. Being childless, and having been followed to the grave by her husband within a month of her death, her story remained unwritten. Had it not been for the research of Mount Auburn volunteer Bill McEvoy, we would still be ignorant of the remarkable Alice North Lincoln (1852–1926, Lot 817 Snowdrop Path), who started good institutions in Boston and closed bad ones. (more…)

Babes in the Woods

October 31, 2018

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,[1] 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…)