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Abstract: Preservation Issues of Wooden Grave Markers and Other Wooden Artifacts

Presenter: Kimberly D. Dugan
Title: Preservation Specialist
Organization: Anthony & Associates, Inc.

Presenter: Ronald W. Anthony
Title: Wood Scientist
Organization: Anthony & Associates, Inc.

Presenter Biographies:

Kim Dugan, Preservation Specialist, has a M.A. in Anthropology with an emphasis in Historic Archaeology from Colorado State University. She has also taken coursework in Construction Management and Architecture with an emphasis in Historic Preservation. Her experience in cultural resource management and historic preservation project management extends over a decade. She focuses on documentation and research needs as well as new products and technologies for wood preservation.

Ron Anthony, Wood Scientist for Anthony & Associates, Inc. received a Master of Science degree in Wood Science and a Bachelor of Science degree in Wood Science and Technology from Colorado State University. His research and consulting activities have focused on developing a better understanding of how wood interacts with other materials and performs over time. In 2002, he received the James Marston Fitch Foundation Grant for his approach to evaluating wood in historic buildings.

Abstract:

Wooden artifacts in cemeteries are often overlooked as significant pieces of our cultural heritage and are typically dismissed as impermanent, and unsalvageable, objects. These artifacts include head and foot markers, crosses, plaques, sculptures, grave curbs, grave fences, grave houses, and plot enclosures, as well as historic perimeter fences. Two primary factors have led to poor decisions regarding wooden artifacts:

  1. The general lack of readily accessible information on the conditions and conservation needs of wooden artifacts. Since wooden artifacts have characteristics and properties that differ from stone and metal monuments, it is important to have a basic understanding of wood as a material, wood deterioration, and available treatment options for artifact preservation. Additionally, unlike wood used in the construction of a house or building that is typically periodically maintained, wooden artifacts are continuously exposed to ultraviolet light, precipitation, freeze/thaw action, and exfoliation processes, all of which hasten the wood deterioration process.
  2. The expense of regular maintenance and/or treatment programs. Cemetery stewards must often act to preserve fragile wooden artifacts with limited financial resources, placing expensive or high-maintenance treatments outside the range of realistic preservation options. However, with some basic management practices, the service-life of many wooden artifacts can be extended with little financial cost.

This presentation, targeted towards lay and professional practitioners, provides a foundation for understanding wood and identifying the various mechanisms of deterioration for wooden artifacts. The presentation will include a discussion of:

  • Some of the physical properties of wood and how wood behaves when exposed to exterior environmental conditions.
  • Methods to identify and assess the various forms of wood deterioration such as weathering processes, moisture, wood decay fungi, moss and lichens, insect damage, and mechanical damage that can occur within wood exposed to the elements.
  • Low-cost, low-maintenance options, such as water and vegetation management, for extending the life of wooden cemetery artifacts.
  • Repair options: the challenges of replacing or repairing in-kind, methods that do not work, and possible alternative solutions.

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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]nps.gov
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119