Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

It Really Works

Every discussion regarding cemetery markers and gravestones, inevitably evolves into the question: how do you extract information from those old stones?  How do you decipher the worn ones; the stones with almost no visible engraving left on the surface.  Some people suggest cleaning the stones, take some shaving cream or mild soap and scrap off the moss and lichen that has attached to the stone.  Unfortunately, THIS IS BAD.  I can guarantee that you will damage the stone beyond repair if you try to clean it.
Leave the cleaning to the professionals.

Probably the best alternative I have found to extract information from a worn stone is through the use of aluminum foil   Wrap the surface of the stone with aluminum foil.  Then take a soft sponge and gently press against the surface of the stone.  DO NOT RUB THE STONE.  Gently press the aluminum foil into every tiny crevice of the stone surface.   Gradually the original information may become apparent.  Take a photograph and transcribe all of the information on the stone. 

When you remove the aluminum foil, it will flatten back out, so you lose the information.  Be sure to write down every line on the stone.

With this technique you have done minimal damage to the stone and have retrieved the information you wanted and needed. 

A final tip for this process, use wide aluminum foil.  This way you can wrap the stone vertically, and hopefully need only one sheet of foil.  In the photograph below, you can see that 18 inch aluminum foil would have better served the purpose than the 12 inch foil that we have.

And, thanks to Phyllis Scroggins and Diana Schansberg for help with this experiment.

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