Hands-On Work at Veterans Cemetery in New Orleans Returns National Spotlight to Its Deep Military History
Building on previous preservation success, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service continue massive volunteer effort at Chalmette National Cemetery
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has announced the return of an expert-led, volunteer-driven project at Chalmette National Cemetery, part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, to continue restoring, documenting and cleaning the site’s hundreds-year-old headstones of U.S. veterans. From April 10 to 27, 2017, the National Trust’s HOPE Crew (Hands-On Preservation Experience) program, in partnership with the National Park Service and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, is celebrating a second annual Chalmette National Cemetery Volunteer Month as a unique hands-on opportunity for the public, regardless of skill or ability, to learn about and support the captivating layers of military history at the cemetery.
“Through the efforts of the hundreds of volunteers that joined us last year, we uncovered nationally significant, yet largely unknown, military history, such as the stories of the U.S. Colored Troops, brave African American men and women who served the Union Army during the Civil War in exchange for food and clothing,” said Monica Rhodes, associate director of the National Trust’s HOPE Crew initiative. “Chalmette National Cemetery Volunteer Month is an excellent example of how the community, technology, and preservation can come together to sustain a hallowed place. These efforts are especially critical in light of the deferred maintenance challenges facing Chalmette and our national parks across the country.”
Established in 1864, Chalmette National Cemetery is situated a few miles outside of New Orleans. The cemetery is the final resting place for Union soldiers who died in Louisiana during the Civil War. There are also more than 14,000 headstones marking the gravesites of veterans of the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. The national cemetery is located on the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, next to Chalmette Battlefield, and is one of 14 national cemeteries managed by the National Park Service.
“In 2016, nearly 800 volunteers worked at the cemetery documenting 1,270 headstones and cleaning 7,238 markers and headstones,” said Gaynell Brady, Volunteer Coordinator at Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. “We’re looking forward to another Volunteer Month uplifting and honoring the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans—and the opportunity to share 21st century preservation skills with the public."
Over the course of the month, supported by a donation of preservation-friendly cleaning products from D/2 Biological Solution, Inc., as many as 60 volunteers a day (aged 13 and older) will be trained on how to document, realign and clean the deteriorating headstones, which are suffering from mold overgrowth, the effects of air pollution, and misalignment. Volunteers will use smartphones to update the database about the condition of each headstone. This information will then be incorporated into a map that will be used to plan future management and maintenance of the cemetery. Families, groups, and individuals are welcome.
At an event on Monday, April 10, 2017, 9AM CT at Chalmette National Cemetery, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service will kick-off Volunteer Month with a special ceremony, featuring Jean Lafitte National Historical Park Superintendent Lance Hatten and Deputy Superintendent Rebecca Lasell to welcome the month’s first volunteers from Chalmette High School and from the West Virginia University School of Medicine.
For more information about Chalmette National Cemetery Volunteer Month and to register as a volunteer, please visit: www.savingplaces.org/chalmette-volunteer-month.
About HOPE Crew
An initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, HOPE Crew, is an initiative to train more young people in preservation crafts while helping to protect historic cultural sites on public lands. Named for “Hands-On Preservation Experience,” the program links preservation projects to the national youth corps movement. Since the start of the program in 2014 at Shenandoah National Park, we have completed 97 projects around the country, trained over 600 youth and veterans in preservation trades, and recruited 1,700 volunteers to protect places that are significant to their communities. www.savingplaces.org/hope-crew