Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Awareness and Preservation Weeks will feature dozens of free outdoor programs over the course of April and May. The public is invited to participate in tours, clean-ups, gravestone conservation demonstrations, open houses, and other programs at historic cemeteries throughout the state. The event is organized by the Rhode Island Advisory Commission on Historical Cemeteries (RIACHC) and Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) in collaboration with many individual and organizational partners.
Rhode Island Cemetery Weeks will include walking tours of historically significant cemeteries like Providence’s North Burial Ground and River Bend Cemetery in Westerly. Another tour will visit God’s Little Acre in Newport, America’s oldest documented and extant burying ground for people of African heritage. There will be many opportunities to visit small burying grounds, like the family plot at Casey Farm in North Kingstown and the Governors’ Burial Ground in Newport.
For those interested in hands-on projects, there will be dozens of clean-up events throughout the state. Since 2015 the R.I. Advisory Commission on Historical Cemeteries has promoted volunteer projects that clean up, maintain, and improve historic cemeteries. They welcome volunteers who can help with raking, trash pick-up, light brush cutting, weed trimming, and other activities. At some sites, gloves, bags, and some tools are provided. Volunteers should bring their own tools if available.
Several Cemetery Weeks events will feature demonstrations led by experts. These include stone conservation workshops in Burrillville’s Pascoag and Harrisville Cemeteries, gravestone cleaning at Allin Yard in Barrington, and ground-penetrating radar demonstrations in Pawtucket led by the Public Archaeology Laboratory. Other programs will present unexpected ways to explore historic cemeteries, including a “Birds and Burials” tour at Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, a tour of wildlife habitats at North Burial Ground in Providence, and a scavenger hunt at Brayton Cemetery in Warwick. The Bristol Historical & Preservation Society is planning a day-long event to include tours, demonstrations, workshops, and an exhibit on May 28.
RIHPHC Interim Executive Director Jeffrey Emidy said, “Rhode Island’s nearly three thousand cemeteries are among our most unique and often overlooked cultural resources. Historic cemeteries tell the stories of individuals and families, landscape design, artistry and technology, religious beliefs, traditional cultural practices, and community development.”
RIACHC Chair Pegee Malcolm added, “The Rhode Island Advisory Commission on Historical Cemeteries is very happy to be working with the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission this year on Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Awareness and Preservation Weeks. We strive to protect all the historical cemeteries in Rhode Island. This year we will be leading clean-ups, tours, and demonstrations to give the public a chance to see the beauty, history, and nature found in historic cemeteries.”
Visit www.preservation.ri.gov/ricw for more information and a calendar of events. Listings will be updated throughout the spring. The online listings will have information about times, locations, tour size limits, registration (if required), and other key details.
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