Cemeteries face a number of condition problems, both naturally and through human destruction. Without protection, historic cemeteries will eventually be diminished or lost. Magnolia Cemetery of Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the many cemeteries facing various preservation problems. In an attempt to assist the cemetery, the failing conditions assessment of the Old Island section of Magnolia highlights the major problems of the area.
The Old Island is a section of Magnolia Cemetery located in the rear of the cemetery that has clearly defined boundaries with marsh and a small lake surrounding it. Plus, many of the people buried in this area are members of leading Charlestonian families, such as the Drayton's, Middleton's and Pinckney's. For these reasons, the Old Island was used for this study.
The changing attitude towards death and graveyards is developed through the history of both rural cemeteries and Magnolia Cemetery (Chapter 1). Then a map of the Old Island (Appendix 3), along with a condition survey of every gravestone (Appendix 6) was done. With this information the Old Island was examined: chronicling who is buried there, and documenting types of gravestones and their motifs (Chapter 2). With the knowledge of who is buried at the Old Island, research was done to know more about the people. It was determined that the people whose graves constitute many of the Old Island's, were from some of the elite Charlestonian families and thus largely the upper class (Chapter 3).
The condition survey was analyzed to determine that the gravestones and their plot enclosures face thirteen conditions (Chapter 4); collapse, loss, fragmentation, cracking, open/missing joints, degradation, biological growth, vegetation, soiling, sinking, erosion, corrosion and metallic staining. Plus, several of the gravestones have received poorly done repairs or have been vandalized.
Proper repair of gravestones is significant to the stone's conservation so as not to further damage the stone, for this reason it was included in this study (Chapter 5). This includes the cleaning of gravestones, removal of vegetation, repair of collapsed or fragmented stones, metal and stone fragments, resetting stones and metallic staining. This information will be useful when the actual conservation of the Old Island occurs.
Overall, the attempt of this study is to provide useful information for not only the conservation of the Old Island but to aid the future condition assessment of the rest of Magnolia Cemetery. It is hoped that the rapid deterioration of the gravestones at the Old Island and Magnolia Cemetery will be halted so that future generations can enjoy the site.