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Shepherd students attend to cemetery

By Staff | May 7, 2010

Sarah Brennan, Melanie Snyder and Brittani Love and Dr. Keith Alexander pull back vegetation which has encroached upon a gravestone at the Lutheran Cemetery at German and College streets. Photo by Michael Theis/Chronicle

Shepherd University historic preservation students cleaned gravestones, mapped, and recorded gravestone inscriptions in the historic Lutheran church cemetery on Saturday, May 1. Their preservation efforts are the capstone event of their Introduction to Historic Preservation course.

“Cemetery preservation and documentation is the perfect way to build on what my students have learned in class,” said Dr. Keith Alexander, coordinator of the Historic Preservation Program. “My students are putting into practice many of the things that preservation professionals will do out in the field, and they apply the same kinds of preservation ethics and techniques we’ve discussed during the semester.”

Cleaning and documenting the gravestones is important for several reasons. Vandalism, a major cause of the loss of the historical and cultural record represented by gravestones, is much lower in cemeteries that look cared for. Proper cleaning of gravestones can also help slow down the deterioration process caused by pollution and biological growth. The information the students gather on the gravestones will be entered into a database and will be available for future researchers.

Shepherd students have participated in a variety of service learning projects in the past. Every semester about 100 education students provide 10 hours of volunteer tutoring for the Harpers Ferry Job Corps. Technical editing students have also provided volunteer hours and marketing materials to the Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department, and English students have read their own versions of world literature to local schoolchildren. “Service learning is a unique way for students to benefit the community while gaining hands-on experience,” says Holly Frye, director of student community service and service learning.