For the last two weeks, I have been virtually attending the 2022 AGS conference. This was my first time attending this annual conference and I wanted to share a little about my experience. I am kicking myself for waiting so long to attend one!
If you’re not familiar with the Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS), they are an international organization that was created to further the study and preservation of gravestones. They promote the study of gravestones, expand public awareness and encourage gravestone preservation. AGS offers many cemetery-related publications, like Markers and the AGS quarterly, as well as holding numerous workshops, exhibits, and the annual AGS conference. I wrote about AGS earlier this year, you can read more about them here.
The annual AGS 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. It’s often referred to as Cemetery Camp. Last year’s conference was held entirely virtually, due to the pandemic. This year, the conference was a hybrid of virtual and in-person attendance. The in-person portion was held at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. The in-person portion was also broadcast live and recorded where possible for those attending virtually. The virtual portions were all done over Zoom and Slack.
Fun fact: This year’s AGS conference logo (above) is from the gravestone of Josiah E. Woodberry in Central Cemetery in Beverly, Massachusetts. The heart-in-hand symbol represents “charity given with an open heart”. You can also see the three rings of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows on the cuff.
I enjoyed this year’s conference, and hope to attend in person, in the future. I regret not attending previous conferences! Everyone I met and chatted with was very welcoming and friendly. It was a great experience meeting like-minded people. There was a great variety of topics presented, along with opportunities spread throughout for attendees to mingle and connect. The topics ranged from histories and overviews of specific cemeteries and cemetery mysteries to how to use Kickstarter and similar platforms to fund cemetery-related projects. Some workshops went into detail on how to preserve gravestones. That’s something that has piqued my interest lately, so I was very interested in that session.
In addition to the interesting presentations and workshops, there were also bus tours offered. I was not able to watch those live, but I am looking forward to watching the recordings. I was able to see some of the photos that attendees took on the tour, and I have to say I was a little jealous. Those tours look like so much fun! As someone who often visits cemeteries alone or with a friend, being able to visit with a large group of taphophiles looks like it would be so much fun! The cemeteries that they visited also looked beautiful. That is very much a bonus to having the conference in a new location every year—new and different cemetery tours!
A great aspect of the conference, especially for virtual attendees was the sessions that encouraged more open discussion and socializing, like the Gabbing at the Gravestone meet and greet and the Cemetery Swirl cocktail hour, which included cemetery-themed cocktails. I love that the cocktail recipes were provided, and they even had a mixologist join us to lead us in a mixology course of sorts. These kinds of opportunities are great to foster new relationships within the cemetery community—and they are super fun!
I hope that the AGS considers making the virtual aspect of the conference a mainstay, even though there were some technical difficulties. There will always be technical difficulties. The benefit of the virtual component is that members from all over the world are given a more accessible avenue to attend. I know it’s not the same as being there in person. I hope within the next few years I will be able to attend and meet everyone in person. That may be a little ways off, considering the state of travel at the moment, but I hope things will return to a more normal level soon.
Have you ever been to an AGS conference, or thought about attending? Do you know a good cemetery-themed cocktail? I would love to exchange recipes in the comments.
Thanks for reading!