There's a great new exhibit that just opened at the Heritage Gardens and Museum in Sandwich, Massachusetts, at the top of Cape Cod, entitled The Art of Final Farewell.
Since Massachusetts Bay was one of the original colonies, there are tons of old graveyards - at least one in every town on Cape Cod. My town has several, actually, dating back well into the 1600s. A group of historians recently undertook the project of photographing all of the old graves, as so many of them are succumbing to age and weather.
The time and artistry that used to go into carving tombstones is just amazing to think about, back when there were no motorized tools and everything was painstakingly chipped bit by bit, letter by letter. Mistakes were inevitably made and then sanded off...but still visible.
Gravestone rubbing used to be a popular activity for camp groups, scouts, and even family members and loved ones visiting the grave of a dead relative. On Cape Cod, they found that these rubbing activities were adding tot he degradation of the stones. The activity was banned in the late 1970s, but at this exhibit there were several beautiful rubbings - museum quality art - that date prior to 1974.
Some of the gravestones are already so degraded that the historians made replicas of them, copying the more interesting of the stones and sayings to share with the public. This one depicts a gravestone of two brothers who fell through the ice and died in a local pond.
The Heritage Gardens and Museum is open April 1 to October 31 from 10:00a.m. to 5:00p.m.
Check their website for admission prices and specific event they have going on each weekend. And don't forget to visit the History Museum Building when you're there. There are a lot more gravestones to check out!