In 1999 the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management (predecessor to the Department of Conservation and Recreation) implemented a program to provide technical assistance to communities for the preservation of public cemeteries. A unique historic landscape type, historic cemeteries and burial grounds were a threatened resource, but the large number of applications to DCR’s the former Historic Landscape Preservation Grant Program focused only on stone conservation and did not reflect a broader landscape preservation plan. The Massachusetts Historic Cemeteries Preservation Initiative was designed to provide cities and towns with the tools to preserve cemeteries as cultural landscapes.

One of the major components of the Initiative was a statewide study of a group of municipal cemeteries and burial grounds and the development of preservation guidelines to address common preservation problems. The resulting Preservation Guidelines for Municipally Owned Historic Burial Grounds and Cemeteries has been a welcome addition to the community toolkit for landscape preservation.

In 2011 DCR re-issued the Guidelines on CD-ROM as part of Terra Firma 10 – Mourning Glory: Preserving Historic Cemeteries. Funded through an agreement with the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, the bulletin was released in conjunction with a Historic Cemetery Preservation Workshop attended by over 200 people from 8 states.

The Initiative At-A-Glance

32 case studies

29 communities

12 case study cemeteries listed on National Register since 2000

American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award, 2000

350+ public cemetery managers and preservation advocates trained at educational workshops in 2000 and 2011


Brookline Cemetery
Walnut Street Cemetery in Brookline was among the 32 sites documented through the Massachusetts Historic Cemeteries Preservation initiative.