The 26th Annual Meeting of the Coalition was held on April 29, 2017 at the Parish Hall of St. James Episcopal Church, in Lothian, southern Anne Arundel County, Maryland. St. James is one of the original colonial parishes, with the present church dating to 1765 and the cemetery containing the oldest dated gravestones in Maryland.
Sixty members and guests heard bad and good news about the state of cemetery protection and preservation in Maryland. Hundreds of Maryland cemeteries – in every county — remain neglected, vandalized, abandoned, and forgotten. However, interest in historic cemeteries is growing, through the attraction of genealogy and in burial grounds as historic places, with increased public awareness and partnerships, and more tools and strategies available to assist those who care. President McGuckian described activities of the Coalition over the past year and presided over the business meeting, which heard committee reports, re-elected half of the current officers and directors, chose Glenn Wallace as the new Vice President and thanked John Higgins for his service, and adopted a minor change to the by-laws.
Two presentations were enthusiastically received: Dennis Montagna, director of the Monument Research & Preservation Program for the National Park Service, introduced institutional burial grounds in locations around the United States. He was joined by Tina Simmons, cemetery inscription chair for the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society, who then related the subject matter to Maryland. Monument conservator Robert Mosko talked about what is happening now in cemetery conservation. He described factors involved in conducting a cemetery assessment and noted the latest technology in conservation and burial identification. He estimated that 30 to 60 percent of needed conservation work in any given situation can be performed by volunteers. Dr. Montagna showed a video of how his office assisted the recently vandalized cemetery at Mount Carmel in Philadelphia, and all speakers responded to questions about documentation, cleaning markers, and other problems and solutions.
The conference featured the 2017 Periwinkle Award to James Hinds for reviving a neglected African American cemetery in Anne Arundel County, a book-signing by the author of “A Pigeon Named Pete,” and a lively Open Forum and Group Discussion that generated concerns, accomplishments, suggestions, offers of assistance, and networking. The supervisor of St. James Parish Cemetery conducted a tour of the colonial church and cemetery, allowing attendees to learn about their history and to talk about conservation and administration issues. The day, including proceeds from a Silent Auction and Raven’s Roost gift shop, was deemed a success. Attendees left with evaluation forms to complete, “I Break for Old Graveyards” bumper stickers, and smiles on their faces.