Cemetery Preservation

 
 
angel statue
Mt. Holly Cemetery

Preservation of Arkansas's Historic Cemeteries

Historic cemeteries are important for reasons you may not have considered. They are outdoor museums filled with amazing art and architecture. Cemeteries provide wildlife refuges and are often home to unique plants. And these sanctuaries nestled within urban environments are also places to research, contemplate, or remember the past. Historic cemeteries are often steeped in mystery and, thanks to popular culture, can be seen as frightening places but they are actually beautiful parks ideal for picnicking or strolling just as the original community would have done when the site was built. We encourage you to stop by a historic cemetery near you and spend some time taking in the beauty of these obscure oasis within your city.

Why are historic cemeteries important?

Historic cemeteries are:

  • Outdoor history museums
  • Research facilities
  • Picnic or exercise to remember those that have gone before
  • Wildlife refuges
  • Art galleries
  • Botanical gardens
  • Places to contemplate life
 

What types of threats face our historic cemeteries?

Historic cemeteries are irreplaceable landscapes. Many of the historic cemeteries in our state have been neglected for decades. For every known rural burial ground, there are at least five that have been forgotten from our collective consciousness. Threats to historic cemeteries include:  

  • Abandonment 
  • Apathy 
  • Encroachment 
  • Environmental factors 
  • Vandalism 
  • Theft 
  • Decline in community activities associated with death.  
  • Fewer events such as Decoration Day and cemetery cleanup day. 
  • The increased role of funeral and cemetery professionals and the declining role of the family’s hands-on care 
  • Increase use of cemetery care machinery and insecticides which have caused stone damage and the removal of footstones and fencing. 
  • Socioeconomic factors that move population away from rural areas leaving cemeteries to return to nature.  
  • Pollution 

Historic cemetery preservation is important and at AHPP we are committed to educating our community about preservation needs and practices.  

headstones
Highland Cemetery
 

How can I place an Arkansas cemetery on the national register of historic places?

Cemeteries are not normally eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places as they serve primarily as a means of an individual's recognition of family history and as expressions of collective religious and/or ethnic identities. Because cemeteries may embody values beyond personal or family-specific emotions, the National Register criteria allow for listing of cemeteries only under certain conditions.

Click here, to find out more detailed information about the National Register listing process.

A cemetery is eligible if at least 51 percent of the markers are 50 years old or older and it derives its primary significance from one of the following criteria:

  • Contains graves of persons of transcendent importance (of great eminence in their field of endeavor or had a great impact upon the history of their community, state, or nation) 
  • Or from its relative age in a particular geographic or cultural context (example: oldest cemetery associated with a town or community's original settlement period) 
  • Or from distinctive design features
  • Or from association with historic events.

The first step in determining if a cemetery is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places is completing our Determination of Eligibility Cemetery Form.

headstone
Presbyterian Cemetery
 
 
 
volunteers restoring a headstone
Preserving a Historic Cemetery

There are six steps to preserve a historic cemetery.

Learn More

headstones
Graves of Arkansas Governors

We want to spotlight these governors grave-sites so the public can see them, be inspired to learn about our past governors, and get involved to make sure these sites are protected and preserved for future generations.

Browse Graves