Category: News

Friends receives grant for Fountain in renovated Asa Gray Garden

February 1, 2018


The Harold Whitworth Pierce Charitable Trust
awards a grant of $250,000 to name

With gratitude, Mount Auburn Cemetery announces that the Harold Whitworth Pierce Charitable Trust has awarded a grant of $250,000 for the rejuvenation of Asa Gray Garden to name the center Fountain, The Pierce Fountain. The grant, along with other individual gifts to the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery totaling $1.5 million dollars to date, will help the Cemetery transform this prominent garden into a year-round horticultural showpiece. Envisioned as one of the great ornamental gardens in the Boston area, it will feature a central fountain and reflective pool surrounded by a diverse mix of over 130 species of trees, shrubs, flowering perennials and annuals, bulbs and grasses.

Pierce Fountain, rendering by Halvorson Design Partnership

“This gift will name the Garden’s centerpiece fountain, the Pierce Fountain, and serve as a lasting legacy of the generosity of the Trust,” says Mount Auburn President and CEO David Barnett. “We hope that the Trust’s generosity will encourage others to make gifts towards this project, which has a goal of $2 million in contributed support.” Integral to the transformation of the garden, the fountain was designed by Halvorson Design Partnership to be uplifting, meditative, soothing and feel like an integrated part of the landscape. The design on the raised portion of the Canadian Mahogany granite fountain is a modified contemporary interpretation of reeds and aquatic grasses.

The Harold Whitworth Pierce Charitable Trust has been a generous supporter of Mount Auburn in the past, including several critical historic preservation projects such as the preservation of the Egyptian Revival cast iron gateway fence, the addition of a new historically-appropriate covered entry at Story Chapel, and the 2005 preservation and stabilization of Bigelow Chapel.

The revitalization of Asa Gray Garden will transform the prominent gathering place, located just inside the front entrance gate between Mount Auburn’s two chapels, into a welcoming, space for contemplation, relaxation, and inspiration. An unusually diverse mix of species from both eastern Asia and eastern North America will be incorporated into the four-season garden to reflect the legacy of Harvard University botany professor Asa Gray, widely considered to be the most important American botanist of the 19th century. It was through his work with herbarium specimens, including thousands from the earliest plant collectors in the Far East, that Gray made a groundbreaking biogeographical hypothesis on the connections between the floras of Eastern North America and Eastern Asia.

To honor his contributions, Mount Auburn’s horticulture and curatorial staff has worked intensively with the award-winning firm of Halvorson Design Partnership and colleagues from The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University to create a planting design showcasing the impressive array of Asian plant species that have impacted horticulture in New England. “The renovation of Asa Gray Garden has long been a dream of our horticulture staff, ever since in 1999 when four large Japanese Maple trees were transplanted to the Garden from the Boston Public Library to save them from being cut down in a major courtyard renovation project,” says Dave Barnett. “We are delighted to have the support to move forward on the transformation of this public space.”

To learn more visit the project page on our website or call Jude Bedel, Director of Individual Giving, at 617-607-1949.

Stories from the Watertown and Cambridge Community Digitization Days

January 31, 2018

This article was written by Kara Zelasko and Brittany Costello. Zelasko and Costello are students of Public History at Northeastern University who assisted with Mount Auburn’s Digitization Days this past October.

You may not realize it, but you already have an archive dedicated to your family’s history. This could mean photos, documents, family recipes, and other pieces that bring to life your family’s unique story. While you may have this tucked away in boxes or stored in the garage, it is now easier than ever to preserve these items in a digital form as well. An item or photograph can be digitally preserved simply by scanning or photographing the item and saving that file in a digital format. Preserving items digitally serves as an additional method to safeguard stories and images that speak to your personal experience. In the case that the physical item is misplaced or damaged, the digital file is an additional way to preserve a family memory. Digitization also broadens your ability to share these documents and photos with family members and, possibly, with public audiences.

Recently, Mount Auburn Cemetery, together with other local organizations, sponsored “Digitization Days” at the Cambridge and Watertown public libraries in effort to help members of the local community build their personal digital archives. At this event, community members brought in items related to their family histories. Members of the digitization team then sat with them to learn the stories behind the items, and afterwards, the items were scanned or photographed to be digitally preserved. People who were interested could also sit in on presentations given by the Northeast Document Conservation Center about current digital preservation techniques that they can use at home.

Photo provided by Susan Lind-Sinanian

The first event took place at Watertown Public Library, where people brought memories to share and photographs to preserve. Susan Lind-Sinanian brought with her an image taken during her grandparents’ wedding day in 1910. The photograph shows people gathered in the streets of Amasia, Turkey celebrating the marriage. Lind-Sinanian recalled that her family immigrated to America after getting word of the impending Armenian genocide. Massachusetts has become home to one of the largest populations of Armenian immigrants and this photo is representative of the place and culture many Armenian families, like Lind-Sinanian’s, were forced to leave behind. Many photographs and oral histories related to Armenian history are preserved through Project SAVE in Watertown, where their digital preservation allows for wider access to Armenian culture and history.

Document provided by Jean Chandler

In Cambridge, community member Jean Chandler brought photos and documents related to the history of the Old Cambridge Baptist Church (OCBC). The handful of documents she was able to bring to the digitization day spoke to the history of the OCBC as a long-standing, progressive, community-oriented organization. Among the documents Chandler provided were scripts for original plays performed at the church, histories of the church written by its members, and programs for events commemorating the church’s 150th Anniversary celebration. These items demonstrate the connection the church had to local and national trends in history, and how the Cambridge community’s values impacted the history of a local church.

Looking at the photographs and hearing the memories at the “Digitization Days” related to these documents reinforced the importance of preserving family histories for individual and public knowledge. For the families, it is a way to connect to their past and preserve memories for future generations. Providing the public with access to these stories creates a sense of community and makes history more personal.


Sweet Auburn Magazine

January 16, 2018

Published biannually, Sweet Auburn is an exploration and celebration of the many facets of Mount Auburn Cemetery. Topics covered in the magazine include art, architecture, biography, burial and commemoration, conservation, design, ecology, education, history, horticulture , genealogy, preservation, and wildlife. (more…)

Mount Auburn Receives Federal Grant from IMLS for Plant Collections

September 29, 2017

The Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery is delighted to announce that we have received an FY2017 Museums for America grant of $100,000 (MA-30-17-0309-17) from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS) in support of a two-year project to develop a new plant collections online map application that will help guide visitors onsite or visit the arboretum collections virtually. (more…)