Scott Merzbach, "Restoration Underway at Amherst's West Cemetery"
AMHERST - Deteriorating and broken gravestones in the town's historic West Cemetery, which regularly draws tourists from around the world as the burial site of Emily Dickinson, are being repaired in anticipation of the town's 250th anniversary next year.
Members of the Historical Commission on Monday got a firsthand look at the project, which is restoring headstones dating from the 1700s through 1900s. The work is funded through $150,000 from the Community Preservation Act account that was authorized by annual Town Meeting three years ago.
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Meanwhile, the Historical Commission is looking at using a symbol from a representative gravestone that will be the graphic for signs that will formally adorn both the Triangle Street and North Pleasant Street entrances to the cemetery.
Members were closely examining the gravestone of Benjamin Kimball, which has a face at the top, with wings protruding from it, and ornamentation down the side. Member Lynda Faye said the traditional shape of this stone, along with the strong graphic, might make it ideal.
Other gravestones with similar faces and skulls might also be used in the signs.
Commission members were joined in this endeavor by students from my Hampshire College seminar, "Making Landmarks, Doing History." The goal of the seminar, undertaken in collaboration with the Historical Commission and the Massachusetts Center for the Book, is to train students to research local figures listed on the Literary Map of Massachusetts, in order to develop appropriate historical markers for sites at which they lived and worked. At the same time, the course provides a more general introduction to historic preservation, public history, the history of Amherst, and research techniques.