Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn Connecting the Present with the Past - Page 6

Significant Monument Preservation By Jenny Gilbert Director of Institutional Advancement With content from The Art of Commemoration and America’s First Rural Cemetery by Melissa Banta Mount Auburn Cemetery Curatorial Consultant and Meg Winslow Curator of Historical Collections Detail of putto, Whitney Monument. ©Greg Heins, 2014. 4 O ne of the key visual characteristics of Mount Auburn Cemetery is the intentional integration of commemorative art within the landscape. Consistent with their civic and aesthetic goals, the Bostonians who founded the Cemetery worked to make it “as remarkable for the treasures of art collected there as for its scenery.” Before there were public art museums, visitors came to Mount Auburn to look at the art of the funerary sculptor and monument carver. Today, the Cemetery continues to serve as an outdoor museum in which landscapes of different styles include memorials representing diverse aspects of American cemetery design and cultural traditions. Among the more than 45,000 monuments at Mount Auburn are a number of highly significant, character-defining works of nineteenth- century funerary art that are at risk of permanent loss due to exposure to our fluctuating climate. Cyclical maintenance and conservation of these monuments not only preserves their individual designs and meaning within the landscape but also reflects the national taste and aspirations of Bostonians in that age. Mount Auburn’s project to preserve our thirty most significant outdoor funerary monuments began in 2013 with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (MA-30-13-0533-13), and included research and digitization of historical records, cataloguing, and documentary photography. The project also included conditions assessments and treatment recommendations for each of the thirty monuments by conservators at Daedalus Fine Art, Inc. These assessments provided a baseline for future preservation work and laid the groundwork for fundraising for eventual conservation treatment. In 2014, the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery successfully raised funds for the highest priority project, conservation and stabilization of American sculptor Thomas Crawford’s 1847 monument created in memory of naturalist and philanthropist Amos Binney. The grand marble sculpture is one of the most sophisticated and complex funerary monuments in the country and has been designated a National Treasure. The grant-funded conditions assessments contributed to the Cemetery’s decision to conserve two additional monuments in 2015—the Magoun and Harnden Monuments—and to raise funds for conservation of the Coppenhagen Monument in 2016. With the support of an energetic Unitarian Universalist fundraising campaign, we completed conservation of the Channing Monument in 2017. Conservation of the Appleton and Wigglesworth Monuments was successfully completed in 2018. Funerary monuments communicate personal memories and civic narratives that become more evident after care and conservation. Crawford’s Binney Monument features carvings of a male figure ascending on the south-facing side and a female mourner holding an urn on the north-facing