The Old Soldiers Cemetery on Four Mile Avenue had pieces of its history brought back to life through water, D2, and a bit of gentle scrubbing.
The Kentucky Trust for Historic Preservation and the Richmond Historical Society teamed up on Wednesday to bring interested parties to the Old Soldiers Cemetery and restore the gravestones there.
Eric Whisman, president of the Kentucky Trust for Historic Preservation, told The Register part of the organization's mission is to save, protect and promote the historical places of Kentucky. He believes one of the most significant resources in doing so is cemeteries. He likened cemeteries to outdoor libraries as well as repositories "not only of our ancestors but of a great deal of information on the history and the development of our communities."
Jonathan Appell of Atlas Preservation echoed Whisman's sentiment of cemeteries having a lot to teach us.
He explained preserving history reflects many different aspects of society.
"Ultimately, a cemetery or graveyard is, in essence, an open-air museum," Appell said. He said many times an old historic graveyard can have some of the oldest things in the region which have not been moved or changed.
Whisman explained several years ago, the organization learned that a great introductory into historic preservation is through cemetery preservation work. He said those who participate learn a lot and can walk away with a feeling of accomplishment. To illustrate this fact, Whisman pointed to one of the gravestones which had just been cleaned and said the woman there might have been forgotten. But, with the gravestone clean, her existence, her history, was revived.
Interested parties volunteered for the day-long event on Wednesday, which started at 9 a.m. and ended around 3:30 p.m. First, they learned the correct way to clean the graves.
"The idea of preservation is do no harm to original materials," Whisman said. He explained they try to teach best practices for simple preservation and maintenance of headstones.
"It is detrimental to use things which have not been tested and could cause damage," Whisman said.
This includes pressure washers, bleach, and sandblasting. Instead, the Old Soldiers Cemetery group used soft scrub brushes, water, and a chemical known as D2, which Whisman said is a natural, organic chemical that kills off lichens, algae, and mold.
Cleaning the graves wasn't the only work the people at the Old Soldiers Cemetery performed, though. Later in the afternoon, they also worked to fix any of the broken stones.
While The Register was at the cemetery, Appell was looking over a broken veteran's headstone.
He explained the stone had been in concrete, was broken and repaired, and was now broken again.
Appell dry-fit the stone back to the base and learned the pieces fit together, which meant they could repair the stone. This stone and others would find new life after the event and be able to "stand tall" once more.