My name is Joy Williams and I am an AmeriCorps member serving with the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation (WNHAC) in Wheeling, WV. In my second year of service with WNHAC, I am completing a Historic Property Inventory of the South Wheeling neighborhood in preparation for writing a National Register of Historic Places nomination for the new historic district. The month of September was busy, filled with travel and lots of training for the upcoming service year. I had the opportunity to discover areas of West Virginia outside of the Northern Panhandle and experience the beautiful landscape as it changed colors from late summer to early fall. My favorite training session was part of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia Conference in Huntington, WV.
On the first day of the conference, I attended the Historic Gravestone Conservation Workshop at Spring Hill Cemetery in Huntington. Jonathan Appell, a historic stone conservator, led a group through several different hands-on techniques for cleaning gravestones and monuments; resetting and leveling leaning gravestones; and conservation, or repair, of broken gravestones. This in-depth session allowed for more than just a speaker presenting his ideas and techniques – we were able to participate and get our hands dirty. Our group cleaned four gravestones during the morning session, removing moss and lichens from the bases and focusing on making the inscriptions more visible and readable. In the afternoon, our group worked on four other gravestones. Each one presented a different challenge toward conservation and repair. We reattached a top portion of a grave marker that had been laying on the ground; we leveled a leaning gravestone; we adhered a large head stone with its base to eliminate the possibility of it falling over; and we used a tripod and hoist to lift and reset large and heavy segments of the final grave marker.
I really enjoyed this workshop because I gained new knowledge on how to work with gravestone conservation and will be able to share this knowledge with others. In Wheeling, I regularly attend monthly cemetery workdays at Mt. Wood Cemetery where a group of local volunteers works to repair and conserve gravestones in a neglected cemetery. I can now pass along these techniques and knowledge to our local volunteer group in our upcoming work at Mt. Wood..