Daniel Barlow and Scott Baer have teamed up to create a special exhibit at the Vermont History Museum entitled “Green Mountain Graveyards.” Their exhibit of photographs shows how cemeteries are more than final resting places for the dead, they are also important historic sites that tell the story of how families and stonecarvers worked together to express grief through art.
Green Mountain Graveyards traces the evolution of gravestone and funerary art in Vermont. This exhibit connects changing symbols and motifs with cultural and social views of death and mortality. Photographs of Vermont’s earliest gravestones from the late 1700s depict the last vestiges of the popular “memento mori” movement, including carvings depicting coffins, hourglasses, and crude portraits.
As society’s views on death softened, artwork shifted away from the physical remains to more spiritual concerns, incorporating weeping willow trees, angels and winged cherubs. The growth of the state’s granite economy in the late 1800s solidified Vermont’s place in graveyard history as the industry attracted talented stoneworkers and sculptors from across the world. Today, gravestones represent an even wider range of personal and artistic expression.
Amanda Gustin, Vermont Historical Society’s public programs coordinator, says, “Gravestones are the product of complex interactions between families and stonecarvers and represent the social, spiritual, and artistic values of their time. They are a fascinating window into the past.”
The Vermont History Museum admission fee will include the Green Mountain Graveyards exhibit until April 2015. Regular museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call Amanda Gustin at (802) 828-2180 for more information or check online: vermonthistory.org/calendar.