Guidelines for Treatment of Cemetery Components

If an extant cemetery is classified by its current state of usage, one will find that individual cemetery components generally remain constant (though in different levels of deterioration) regardless of the usage classification. However, the ratio of funds related to the basic classification system obviously rises from zero to profitable:

State of Usage

  1. Abandoned
  2. Inactive but revered historic cemetery
  3. Active historic cemetery with a modest number of burials per year
  4. Highly active historic cemetery with modern upgrades
  5. Highly active Lawn-Parks or Memorial Parks of the 20th century

But little remains constant and everything ages. Landscapes grow, communities change, populations alter, and people die and expect to be interred or disposed of in their chosen fashion or through their religious tenets. Balancing these issues of life and economics in conjunction with Preservation Planning and Treatment of Cemetery Components is not an easy task. This balance is even more difficult today because Pennsylvania laws and policies on the treatment of human remains enacted during the last decades of the 20th century make it more difficult and costly to move bodies and wipe a cemetery from the landscape. The truth is, what exists now in the Pennsylvania landscape as a burial site that is in any way active (Nos. 3-5 above) should be preserved and run with a credible maintenance plan and an attainable business plan to achieve sustainable funding for the distant future. For burial sites categorized under Nos. 1 and 2 above, different methods must be used to obtain similar economic goals for the preservation and ongoing maintenance of either abandoned or inactive historic cemeteries.

Based on these premises, these Guidelines for Treatment of Cemetery Components are applicable to all extant burial grounds or cemeteries in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They will apply, of course, in varying degrees related to the current usage classification and to factors such as the age and size of the resource, the location of the site, and the specific components on the property. Gardens of the dead, whether associated with an active congregation, in the backyard of a suburban home, or covering 300 acres as a Rural Cemetery for a major city, are invaluable memorials and cultural resources for both the living and for future generations. Please use the following guidelines to help preserve, restore, maintain, and sustain the different components of Pennsylvania's burial grounds and cemeteries and protect each property as a whole.