National Hands-On Initiative at Veterans Cemetery Unveils Louisiana’s Military History
Massive volunteer effort returns to Chalmette National Cemetery, bringing spotlight to region’s cultural heritage and environmental conservation.
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 March 17–30, 2017, the National Trust’s HOPE Crew (Hands-On Preservation Experience) program, in partnership with the National Park Service, is undertaking the third annual Chalmette National Cemetery Volunteer Month as a unique hands-on opportunity for the public, regardless of skill or ability, to learn from and document the layers of military history at the cemetery. This year, participants will also gain insight into the Land and Water Conservation Fund and its work to safeguard natural and recreational areas, water resources and cultural heritage for all Americans.
“Through the efforts of the close to two-thousand volunteers that have joined us these couple of years, 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 program. “This year, in addition to discovering new stories and providing a model for bringing community, technology and preservation together to sustain a hallowed place, we also look forward to educating volunteers about critical tools, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, helping to strengthen communities and protect our national endowment of public lands.”
Along with the French Quarter Visitor Center in New Orleans and sites celebrating Cajun culture across the state, the remarkable cultural diversity of southern Louisiana is reflected at Chalmette National Cemetery as part of the larger Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Since its creation in 1978, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve has received more than $23 million to acquire approximately 14,500 acres (roughly 80 percent of its 17,600-acres) from the Land and Water Conservation Fund—a key federal program that will expire on September 30, 2018 unless the U.S. Congress acts to reauthorize it.
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 Saturday, March 17, 2017, 9AM CDT at Chalmette National Cemetery, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service will kick-off Volunteer Month and welcome the first round of volunteers, including researchers from Eastern Kentucky University. Volunteer Month will conclude on Friday, March 30, 2018 with a crawfish and jazz celebration onsite, featuring an array of guest speakers.For more information about Chalmette National Cemetery Volunteer Month and to register as a volunteer, please visit: www.savingplaces.org/chalmette-volunteer-month