I found out about The Association for Gravestone Studies years ago while doing some online shopping. I was looking at gravestone rubbing kits at Pushin Daisies, the mortuary novelty shop. Each kit comes with information on becoming a member of AGS. I was curious. I didn’t end up purchasing a rubbing kit, but I did end up getting myself a membership for AGS. After being a member for a few years, I let my membership lapse due to financial reasons. I missed being part of the Association and missed receiving gravestone-related mail. When I decided to focus more on my cemetery photography a couple of years ago, one of the first things I did was renew my membership. I am very happy to be a member again!
“The Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS) was founded in 1977 for the purpose of furthering the study and preservation of gravestones. AGS is an international organization with an interest in gravemarkers of all periods and styles. Through its publications, conferences, workshops and exhibits, AGS promotes the study of gravestones from historical and artistic perspectives, expands public awareness of the significance of historic gravemarkers, and encourages individuals and groups to record and preserve gravestones. At every opportunity, AGS cooperates with groups that have similar interests.” – http://www.gravestonestudies.org
What drew me to the Association, was finding other like-minded individuals, and all the resources they offer. There are quite a few AGS chapters throughout the United States, and when I first joined there were a couple of Canadian chapters. Unfortunately, none were close to me, and those chapters have since closed. There are lots of opportunities to get to know your fellow members and taphophiles though, like the AGS Conference for example. This annual conference takes place in a different location each year and features events like field trips, conservation workshops, hands-on sessions as well as panels, evening lectures, and late-night presentations. Last year the conference went virtual! I think it was a great approach. It’s mindful of the current pandemic, and a great way for those of us that are far away, to attend. I do hope they continue to offer some virtual events for the conference.
In addition to that, there are a lot of publications available. The AGS Quarterly is the bulletin of the Association for Gravestone Studies. It’s published 4 times a year and is delivered right to your door if you are a member. The Quarterly features articles, and regular columns on conservation and International gravestone studies. I love the articles in the Quarterly, they are always fascinating. Another publication AGS offers is Markers, the annual journal of AGS. During the winter months, what I consider my off-season for cemetery photography, I have been diving into the back issues of Markers, reading them cover to cover. It’s a beautiful perfect-bound journal that features definitive illustrated articles on cemetery and gravestone topics. It’s very in-depth and very informative. It also features international content. A bonus of AGS membership is that now you can read and download past issues of Markers online. They offer a lot of other online resources as well, in their knowledge centre. There you can find information on symbolism and the archives of past Markers and AGS Quarterly issues, as well as past e-newsletters. They also have a database of websites that pertain to the preservation of gravestones.
New this year, AGS has added a virtual book club. Starting in January, the book club meets on the third Sunday of each month and focuses on books about cemeteries, gravestones, mourning customs, funerary practices, and death and dying. The book for January was 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die by Loren Rhoads. I attended the first meeting and had a great time. There were about 30 participants, including the books author. We were split up into 2 smaller groups for discussions. In virtual break-out rooms, the moderators inspired conversation by asking questions about elements of the book. There was a great range of participants from all over the world. It was really interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts. Having Loren in attendance was a pleasant surprise. It was really interesting to get some extra insights from her. I’m looking forward to February’s meeting, where we will be discussing City of Immortals: Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris by Carolyn Campbell.
I highly recommend joining the Association for Gravestone Studies if you have an interest in cemeteries, and gravestone preservation. It’s a great place to find others with a passion for cemeteries and a great resource to learn more about everything cemetery related.