AIC’s 39th Annual Meeting – ASG Session, June 3, “Conserving a Space for Commemoration: Trinity Cathedral Burial Ground Renewal” by Teresa Duff, Post-Graduate Fellow, University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation

Teresa Duff presented the conclusion of a twenty-year, three-phased conservation project by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the Trinity Burial Ground in Pittsburgh, PA.  The first phase, begun in 1990, entailed a condition survey and pilot testing program for the conservation of grave markers in the cemetery.  In 2000, students from the University of Pennsylvania performed the second phase of testing, and in 2007-2008, Duff and her colleagues began Phase 3, which was in conjunction with a landscape renewal by Andropogon.

Duff explained that the site was a Native American burial ground that was adopted by white settlers in 1779.  In 1822 the first church was erected on the site, and the current Trinity Cathedral was constructed in 1872.  The grounds contain 155 stones along with burial-marker fragments.  Duff and her colleagues mapped the site and numbered each plot, and created color-coded layers for conditions, treatments and the history of markers.  They built a site-specific treatment platform for the on-site conservation of markers, and completed the conservation treatments begun in 2000.  Treatments included cleaning and removal of biological growth, epoxy repairs for blind delamination and cracks, pinning with fiberglass pins, carbon fiber strap reinforcement on the back of some markers, excavation and resetting of partially buried or at-risk markers, and the burial of markers who had lost their material integrity.  Fragments were displayed on the exterior walls of the church.

The author provided detailed information about treatments and products, but I would have liked to have learned more about the history of the site, the types of stones and carving represented in the burial ground, and the rationale behind some of the treatments.  There were many questions following the talk about the landscape renewal by Andropogon, particularly the native grass they selected which does not need to be mowed.  It was a well-organized presentation with good visuals and detailed information.