Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find funding to preserve a cemetery?

One of the most frequently asked of our Frequently Asked Questions concerns where one should look to secure funds to preserve historic cemeteries. There’s no easy answer. Such funding, if available, is generally found locally and may require some perseverance to secure. First, determine whether or not there is a statewide or a regional organization dedicated to the study and preservation of historic cemeteries, such as an area’s “Old Cemetery Association” or other similar group. The town, county, or other regional public works office where the cemetery is located may also have, or know of, such funding. Some states have taken on a cemetery advocacy role through their state historic preservation offices, and may maintain grant programs to further cemetery documentation and care.

How do I start a Cemetery Friends organization?

You can find this information in our Cemetery Friends Field Guide. Click here to download the document.

I would like to learn about resetting gravestones. Do you have any information on your website?

Ta Mara Conde, an AGS member and gravestone conservator, has created a presentation that contains information about resetting gravestones. It contains step-by-step instructions, with photos. The PDF file can be downloaded here: Steps to Reset a Stone (with photos)

We have many stones encased in cement. Is it possible to remove the cement without damaging the stone?

Stones that are "encased" in cement whether in a vertical or horizontal position are best left alone. Attempts to remove encasement are rarely successful and should only be attempted by trained professionals with appropriate equipment.

Why can't I use flour to read worn inscriptions on gravestones?

No matter how carefully the stone is brushed afterward some traces of flour will remain, that, when in contact with water, may become tacky, trapping moisture and accelerating deterioration. Because of this, AGS does not endorse the application of flour to gravestones to read worn inscriptions. To safely read a worn inscription, AGS recommends the following methods: 

  • Use a large mirror to direct bright sunlight diagonally across the face of the gravestone to cast shadows in indentations and make inscriptions more visible. In wooded areas, use a flashlight to achieve similar results.
  • Take a digital photo, upload onto a computer, edit the picture, and choose invert colors. This will make the image look like an old 35mm negative and bring out the lettering. To keep a copy of the original and edited photograph, select "save as" when saving the edited photograph.
  • Treat a wet gravestone with D/2 Biological Solution, scrub into a lather using a plastic bristle brush, and smooth the lather into the inscription to make the letters more readable. Afterward, rinse the stone thoroughly.

Why can't I use shaving cream to highlight inscriptions on difficult to read stones?

Our professional conservators tell us it is definitely not a good idea to use shaving cream on porous gravestones because there are chemicals and greasy emollients in shaving cream that are sticky and very difficult to remove from the stone with a simple washing.  Indeed, even with vigorous scrubbing and lots of rinsing, the cream fills in the pores of a porous stone and cannot all be removed.  The result of leaving it there is that in time it may discolor or damage the stone.

Instead, use a mirror to shine sunlight across the face of a stone, making the lettering stand out.   You should always prefer a non-invasive method to interact with gravestones just as we do with medical tests on our own bodies.

Is it possible to remove graffiti left by vandals?

This is probably best done by professional conservators.  The type of paint and the method of application requires skilled assessment to determine which products are appropriate to remove graffiti without harming the stone.  Time is of the essence.  The longer the graffiti remains on the stone the more difficult it is to remove it successfully. 

The Stone has broken at the base. The old base is either broken itself or we can't get the stub out of the recess. How can we make a new base?

We've prepared a pdf for you. Click on the link below to download.

How To Cast a New Base for a Stone PDF


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