One of the most thrilling moments for anyone working with historic monuments is the moment of discovery. The moment when a partially illegible inscription can be deciphered, a maker’s signature found, or a forgotten detail rediscovered.
At Mount Auburn, thousands of marble monuments are slowly disintegrating in some way, having suffered from over a century of exposure to the harsh New England climate. The surfaces have been etched by acid precipitation and have eroded, resulting in a loss of once finely carved surface detail. The inscriptions and symbolism, telling relics of the people buried and commemorated here, are in danger of being lost forever. Mount Auburn’s Monument Inscription Project has worked to address these losses since 1993 by training staff and volunteers to document the details and inscriptions on our 19th century monuments. However, although much can be deciphered using mirrors and other special techniques, there is a limit to what we can see with the naked eye. (more…)
Mount Auburn is delighted to announce the recent conservation of the much-loved monument to Thatcher Magoun (1775-1856) on Fir Avenue. Described in nineteenth-century guidebooks as “One of the most beautiful in the grounds,” the tender memorial depicts a female figure protectively embracing a young girl. Also referred to as “Grief,” the monument is a copy of a bas-relief carved by Irish-born sculptor John Henry Foley that was published in The Art Journal of 1850. The Art Journal observed “how closely and tenderly are the two entwined together, each finding comfort in the other; yet both sorrowing over the link that is broken.” The inscription “R. Barry, Boston” on the base references Richard Barry (c. 1818-1874), a Boston marble worker, who carved the memorial’s large pedestal. (more…)
Over the past two years, with the generous support of the Massachusetts Sesquicentennial Commission of the American Civil War as well as individual donors, Mount Auburn completed the conservation treatment of 17 of our most threatened and historically notable Civil War monuments.
These newly conserved monuments, along with those of many other veterans at Mount Auburn, were adorned with American flags for Memorial Day, a fitting tribute at the end of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.
Photos by Rozman G. Lynch
The Shaw family Monument is one of Mount Auburn’s most significant and celebrated memorials. Robert Gould Shaw, a Boston merchant, China trader, and philanthropist commissioned architect and designer Hammatt Billings to design a monument carved by local stone carver Alpheus Cary on the family lot at Mount Auburn which was erected in 1848. As was typical during the nineteenth century, the lot is the final burial place for many members of the Shaw family and includes nine individual markers and an underground tomb. At the base of the front of the Monument is the bronze plaque that commemorates Shaw’s grandson, Col. Robert Gould Shaw. (more…)