This presentation is part of the International Cemetery Preservation Summit, April 8-10, 2014 Niagara Falls, NY.
Down to Earth: Conservation Decision-Making for Historic Cemeteries by Katharine Untch
Historic cemeteries can be as unique as the individuals who populate them. When faced with decisions on how best to preserve cemeteries, several complex factors impact how they are maintained and preserved. This paper will focus on the decision‐making process for addressing the physical preservation needs of cemeteries. Some of the factors impacting sustainable preservation outcomes include context, environment, resources, significance, visitation, location, physical attributes, stakeholder opinions, aesthetics, and the qualifications and experience of those conducting the planning or work. A military cemetery dating from WWII to the present will contrast in aesthetics and functionality from a nineteenth‐century Gold Rush‐era cemetery. By the same token, a nineteenth century Gold Rush‐era cemetery in California has obvious historic similarities with an Australian cemetery of the same context; however, preservation solutions will differ due to regional circumstances, including differences in climate, resources, regional training, and local restoration or maintenance traditions. The presentation will outline a decision‐making process to help conservators and stewards navigate potential strategies, briefly covering a variety of preservation approaches illustrated with examples from different cemeteries, with comments on the relative merits and efficacy of these approaches. The presentation will draw upon field experience particularly at the Shasta State Historic Park Catholic Cemetery—a Gold Rush cemetery whose rehabilitation was awarded a Preservation Design Award by the California Preservation Foundation last year—as well as the San Francisco and Los Angeles National Cemeteries. The presentation will serve as a helpful corollary to and tie‐in with individual case study presentations.
Katharine Untch has over 25 years of experience in the conservation of three‐dimensional art, archaeological, and architectural materials, with particular strengths in planning and project management. A Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), she has extensive experience with outdoor sculpture and monuments, as well as a variety of materials in both interior and exterior contexts. As Director of Professional Education on the AIC board and Project Specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute, she expanded continuing education opportunities for conservators nationally and internationally. As former Director of Conservation at ARG Conservation Services, an award‐winning design‐build conservation construction company based in San Francisco, Katharine has led several cemetery conservation projects, including a multi‐year conservation project at the Shasta State Historic Park Catholic Cemetery. Katharine’s own business has provided conservation, education, planning, grant writing and consulting services for a variety of clientele since 1984.