Cemetery Conservation Workshop with the Cape Broyle Green Team

Cross shaped headstone in an overgrown plot.

The Green Team with the Town of Cape Broyle is working on an exciting project restoring the Cape Broyle Immaculate Conception Cemetery this summer. This is the second year a CCNL Green Team has worked to restore Cape Broyle’s oldest and historically-significant cemetery.

During the first year of the project, the Green Team cleared brush, trees, and decades worth of overgrowth. You can read about the project completed by last summer’s Green Team here.

This year the team is working on increasing accessibility throughout the cemetery by filling holes to make the ground more even and clearing pathways to different sections of the cemetery. Another very important aspect of the restoration of the cemetery is cleaning and preserving the many headstones. Because the headstones are so delicate, the Green Team participated in headstone cleaning training hosted by The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. The session was conducted by Robyn Lacey and Ian Petty of Black Cat Preservation. The duo specialize in cemetery conservation and historical archeology.

They broke the process down into very clear steps:

1. Be careful

First and most importantly, is to be incredibly gentle with the headstones. As they are so old and delicate, too much pressure can cause the stones to either crack or tip over. So be very cautious.

2. Remove growth

Gently scrape away any moss or growth on the stone. It may be helpful to first soak these spots with water before proceeding to scrape away with a plastic scraper. Scraping too hard or with a metal scraper can cause irreparable damage to the stone.

3. Use water

Completely soak the stone with water. This is to prepare the stone for the cleaning process.

4. Use D/2

Soak the stone with D/2. This solution is safe and low toxicity, so it won’t cause any damage. When using it, you may notice the stone turning pink or orange. This is a completely normal reaction, and the colour will go away with a rinse. Don’t be worried, it just means that it’s working!

5. Gently scrub

Next you’re going to gently scrub the stone with a small cleaning brush. Again, be very careful so as to not damage the stone. Scrub, scrub, scrub until as much of the staining as possible is gone.

6. Rinse with water

Spray or pour clean water over the stone to rinse away the dirt and the D/2. This is by far the most satisfying part, as you’ll notice an immediate difference in the colour and cleanliness of the stone. As the stone dries over the next few days, you should notice it continuing to look better and better.

This process may not get all the stains out, but it will bring the stone to a much better condition than before, and it will help protect it for years to come. If you are interested in cleaning headstones in your local cemetery, we suggest that you take extra caution and consult a professional such as Robyn or Ian. Damage to headstones are irreversible, and we want to ensure the best care is given.

The Cape Broyle Immaculate Conception Cemetery is the oldest known cemetery in the community, and is unique for its many fenced family plots. Once a common trait of Newfoundland cemeteries, the Immaculate Conception Cemetery is one of few cemeteries left on the island with fenced plots for individual families. Last summer, the team used the Billion Graves App to record headstone data, thus preserving the community’s heritage and genealogy for future generations.

Thanks to the Green Team and their community partners, as well as mentors such as Robyn and Ian, the cemetery will become accessible again and be a valued part of the community. People will be able to sit and spend time in the cemetery and learn about the individuals and their families.

Learn more about the Cape Broyle Green Team by following the Town of Cape Broyle on FacebookYou can also follow Conservations Corps NL on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Learn about the Green Team Program here.

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