It’s where people bury their loved ones and come to mourn them
it is not a cool picnic spot
not a place for tag
or cosplay photoshoots
don’t do it
insert-relevant-joke-here said: #Valt what’s your take on this?
As a preservationist and as a cemetery preservation specialist — which is what entitles me to comment on this with some degree of expert knowledge — there are several ways this can go.
Privately owned cemeteries that are still performing burials and selling plots often have their own rules posted. Places like Mount Auburn Cemetery and Swan Point Cemetery and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery have their own rules on photography and acceptable activities. And they’re entitled. Please, respect the rules.
But if we’re talking about historic cemeteries or cemeteries that can no longer afford to take care of themselves (ie, no more burial plots to sell), then, apart from playing tag which is just dangerous with all kinds of things sticking out of the ground, following the original poster’s recommendations is REALLY BAD.
And why is this? Well, unless the cemetery is serving the community as a positive, useful, fun, or informative place, it’s going to get abandoned, run-down, overgrown, or forgotten. It’s been shown MANY TIMES. They become havens for drug-abuse and violence. People stop going into them and that perpetuates the downward spiral of the cemetery. And then the family that DOES mourn for someone buried there is TOO AFRAID to go in, or OUTRAGED at the condition.
So what should you do? Be respectful. Go have a picnic and pick up after yourself. Go do photoshoots but don’t push/pull/sit/abuse the stones and don’t put your equipment on the stones either. Go use it for walks. Go admire the beautiful carvings. Cemeteries were always intended for use and Victorian cemeteries were meant for recreation. So USE IT. Keep it vibrant and active in your community.
Victorian cemeteries were used for recreation? Can someone please elaborate? Is that recreation like you would use a park? I of course can understand the appeal, but the idea that an entire eras cemeteries were intended for this is surprising to me.
I recommend a couple books regarding this topic:
Linden-Ward, Blanche. ”Strange but Genteel Pleasure Grounds: Tourist and Leisure Uses of Nineteenth-Century Rural Cemeteries.” Cemeteries and Gravemarkers: Voices of American Culture. Edited by Richard E. Meyer. Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1989.
Rutherford, Sarah. The Victorian Cemetery. Oxford: Shire Books, 2008.
Mickey, Thomas J. (2013). America’s Romance With the English Garden. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.
In case you can’t tell, I’m doing my thesis on alternative use of cemeteries…
^^^^^^^ Listen to Valt on this one, gentlefolk. Of course be respectful, but cemeteries - 19th century ones especially - have always been meant to be used by both the living and the dead. I can think of several cemeteries I’ve been in that include benches. That are not in any way a grave marker. Why would there be benches in especially scenic areas of the cemetery, often a distance from actual graves, if they weren’t meant for you to sit on? If you don’t have easy access to the books Valt mentioned, here are some webpages on the subject:
- Our First Public Parks: The Forgotten History of Cemeteries (The Atlantic, 2011)
- Rural Cemetery (Wikipedia page)
- Turning Cemeteries for the Dead into Parks for the Living (City Parks Blog)
- National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Evaluating and Registering Cemeteries and Burial Places (National Park Service)
- City of Boston Cemetery Division webpage (Parks Department)
Also excellent sources! Thank you, Alex.
While I am not Valt - who has a professional pedigree I am BURNING WITH ENVY ABOUT NOW - I am the son and grandson of morticians, and grew up (so to speak) in the industry.
I can tell you that active vandalism is a crime and will hopefully get you put away. People break monuments in Seattle-area cemeteries all the time, and it’s an awful thing.
I can also tell you that all the public cemeteries (not churchyards - different, very very different things) in King County, WA, are owned by the same company - and they have no-trespassing policies meant to reduce crime and vandalism. If you obey the open/close times, don’t bother graveside services, don’t damage anything, and are respectful of people who are there to mourn - they (the owners) *do not care* if you take photos, or have picnics, or walk around looking at things. Some places around Seattle have been formatted (landscaped and re-landscaped) specifically because famous people (hello, Bruce and Brandon Lee) are buried there and FANS come to take photos. It’s *expected*. (They’re not interred there after some JACKASS tried digging up their remains - but the cenotaphs remain.)
Don’t break stuff. Don’t bother grieving people. Look - don’t touch. But please do look - some of the graveyards are near very beautiful, undeveloped, historic and seldom-experienced parts of town. Seattle is young - but some graveyards date to the founding of the city. That wasn’t literally yesterday.
This is excellent advice and I want everyone to read it, again and again. Especially people who seem to think that daring to go in a graveyard if you’re not actively visiting a grave of someone you personally knew is some sort of massive social faux pas.
Cemeteries were specifically built for you to go and have a nice time in, it’s a really modern (and, frankly, really weird) idea that you simply shouldn’t go into grave yards unless you’re a mourner.