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Cemetery 101

The OHCA often hears about the advice being given folks on how to read stones or repair them. Unfortunately much of that advice is harmful. Please remember these simple tips:
  • The best way to read an illegible inscription is to shine a light over the marker's surface at a raking angle. Use a mirror to reflect bright sunlight or a bright flashlight after dusk. Never apply anything (shave cream, chalk, dirty water, etc.) to the surface of the stone.

  • Before attempting to repair a gravestone, contact either the OHCA or the Association for Gravestone Studies to determine if the method you or someone you have hired is safe for the stone. There is no charge for this service. Never allow anyone to set an old marker flat in concrete.

  • The safest method to clean a marble gravestone is with plain water (lots of it), a soft bristle brush, and a gentle touch. Never use household bleach or other cleaning products, wire brushes, or sand blasters, and try not to clean too frequently as even the gentlest methods will harm these stones.

The OCHC, Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries, a department of the State of Oregon, also has technical advice, links, & resources on historic cemeteries. at

For additional information, The Association for Gravestone Studies is a another resource.