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The mission of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery is to serve the community as an active burial ground and conserve the physical artifacts, buildings, and infrastructure of the cemetery; to celebrate the American heritage represented by those interred here; restore and sustain the landscape, protect the Anacostia River watershed, and manage the grounds as an accessible community resource.
Congressional Cemetery contains a wealth of physical artifacts that document its own history, the heritage of the nation’s capitol, and the historic landscape that reflects its social and economic conditions. The Association intends to preserve and/or restore where possible these national treasures, and become a national leader in cemetery preservation practices by adhering to the following principles:
A. Conservation Philosophy
The Association's mission statement reflects the multifaceted interests and operations at Congressional Cemetery. It is both a historic site and a historic preservation site. It is a moderately active burial ground that intends to expand its interment services to the city. It is a tourist site and open greenspace along the Anacostia River. It is a Capitol Hill gathering place for families and neighbors. And it is a place where familes come to remember loved ones. But primarily it is to preserve the cemetery and its historical significance for future generations to enjoy.
Our preservation ethic must take into account these sometimes competing interests and the resulting conservation philosophy might not be what another historic site selects. The Association's Board of Directors has chosen a middle path between preservation and restoration, between being locked in a single time period and welcoming the 21st Century.
Preservation seeks to stabilize an object in its present condition, prevent future deterioration, and do the least amount of damage to the original material in the process.
Restoration seeks to stabilize any deteriorating conditions and bring an object back to its original condition as much as possible.
The Association does not hold to either philosophy in a strict manner but rather assesses each stone conservation project in light of the historic significance of the stone or structure, its physical condition, the material from which it was constructed, the cost of the alternatives, and the recommendations of the conservators contracted to perform the work.
B. Period of Most Significance
Congressional Cemetery spans over 200 years of American history. Consequently, it reflects a wide variety of cemetery practices governing landscape design, gravestone materials & designs, paving materials, and tree & garden selections. No one period can stand for the breadth of this history. However, the period in which Congressional Cemetery played its role as the most preeminent burial ground for the Nation’s capital was the 19th century. While that period represents the “period of most significance’ in guiding restoration work techniques, materials, appearance, and practices, the Association does not intend to recreate the grounds in that era’s image or limit future development to a 19th Century appearance.
C. Archaeological Review
As an historic preservation association, it is the Association’s responsibility to protect the cultural heritage of the landscape and all objects and conditions on its site. The Association will conduct an archaeological review of the site conditions prior to undertaking any significant conservation, restoration, or construction project. Regardless of the decisions made relevant to any proposed projects, the Association will document and retain archaeological findings related to the project.
D. Survey of Practices
In order to fully understand current industry practices regarding historical cemetery conservation work, the materials and methods used, and a network of most qualified craftsman, the Association will survey of other historic cemeteries in order to benchmark, compare and contrast the most suitable conservation practices.
E. Restoration Priorities
Building on the 2003 Historic Landscape & Structures Report, the Association will maintain a database of information on the physical condition of the gravesite memorials and other physical artifacts pertinent to the history of the Cemetery and make a prioritized assessment for repair and restoration. The Association will assess each stone conservation project in light of the historic significance of the stone or structure, its physical condition, the material from which it was constructed, the cost of the alternatives, and the recommendations of the conservators contracted to perform the work.
©2014 Historic Congressional Cemetery