A Gift Guide for Taphophiles

It’s almost Christmas time, and the hustle and bustle of Christmas dinners and get-togethers are right around the corner. I love finding unique and meaningful gifts for my loved ones. It’s a great feeling to see someone close to you, open up a unique gift that you know they are going to love! These types of gifts also don’t need to cost a fortune, and supporting a small business is always a bonus. I have been eyeing a few fun and interesting cemetery-related items online myself. Unfortunately, I don’t have any taphophiles in my family to buy for, but I thought maybe some of you might.

So this year, I thought I would try my hand at writing a little gift guide for those looking for some inspiration for your cemetery loving friends and family, or maybe your own Christmas wish list.

Below is my round-up of some unique, beautiful and practical cemetery-related items that I think any taphophile would love!

Cemetery Photography by Chantal Larochelle is not affiliated with these brands and artists. I do not receive any proceeds from sales. Just sharing products I love!

A Tomb With a View – The Stories & Glories of Graveyards | Indigo Books

If your taphophile friends and family like to read, you can’t go wrong with a cemetery book. I’ve heard excellent things about Peter Ross’ new book, and hope to pick myself up a copy if I don’t get one for Christmas. “A book for anyone who has ever wandered through a field of crooked headstones and wondered about the lives and deaths of those who lie beneath.” – Indigo.ca

Cooking with the Dead: A zine of Tombstone Recipes | Etsy

A unique full-color illustrated zine by Reading Reliquary. This 20-page booklet features recipes found on tombstones from “Alaska to Israel”. There are a bunch of other spooky-cute items available in their Etsy shop, such as stickers, bookmarks, and another zine about the language of floral symbolism on tombstones. Unfortunately, some items don’t ship to Canada.

Custom Graveyard Garden Stakes | Etsy

Cursed by Design offers a set of 6, 3D printed garden stakes. You can customize them with any of the 40 available herb names, or you can personalize them with your own names. They would be perfect for a taphophiles herb garden!

Death’s Garden Revisited: Personal Relationships with Cemeteries | Blurb 

This new book of essays, edited by Loren Rhoads, illuminates the reason why people visit cemeteries. This collection features 40 personal essays, written by cemetery tourists, genealogists, geocachers, anthropologists, and more. A great addition to any taphophiles library.

Deaths Head Enamel Pin | Etsy

This gorgeous 1.5” soft enamel Deaths Head pin, by Verona Black, would look striking on a jacket, camera bag, or anywhere really. It also has some interesting symbolism behind it. A Deaths Head or Skull effigy is a form of Momento Mori, a reminder of your mortality.

Gravestone Casting Wall Art | The Gravestone Girls

Their online store is filled with beautiful castings of old New England gravestones. Their pieces range from small magnets to large castings. They all feature unique gravestone symbolism. The Gravestone Girls, who are fellow taphophiles, have over 30 years of experience working in old cemeteries. So you can be certain that these beautiful gravestone castings have been made with every precaution taken to not harm the gravestones. 

Gravestone Symbols T-Shirt | The Order of the Good Death Store

This unisex t-shirt features some beautiful gravestone symbolism, illustrated by Meagan Meli. The symbols are also accompanied by their meanings. Perfect for those who would rather be visiting a cemetery. I know I would personally try to find all the symbols on it if I ever wore this while visiting a historic cemetery.

Gravestone Types Classic T-Shirt | Red Bubble

I feel like t-shirts are always a safe bet, especially if they have some cool graphics. This t-shirt by Shaded Grove Art on Red Bubble features a bold, but simple design that lists different types of gravestones. It’s a little bit classic, and a little bit nerdy, a great combination.

I Brake For Cemeteries Bumper Sticker | TalkDeath

Does your vehicle brake for cemeteries? This is a fun novelty accessory, but I can see how this would come in handy on cemetery road trips. Other drivers should be warned! 

Natural Spectrolite Tombstone | Etsy

These beautiful miniature tombstones from WHCrystal are made from spectrolite minerals that flash beautifully in the sunlight. These would be a very unique addition to someone’s rock and mineral collection, or as a stand-alone piece. I just love the look of these little gravestones.

One-year membership to AGS | Association for Gravestone Studies

A one-year membership to AGS is a gift that keeps on giving! Members receive some great benefits throughout the year, like The AGS Quarterly, filled with cemetery and gravestone-related articles. They also receive the monthly e-newsletter that features special announcements, news articles, and event information. Membership also includes the next published issue of Markers, their annual journal full of definitive cemetery and gravestone articles. You also get member pricing for the AGS Annual Conference, that’s also known as Cemetery Camp.

Pocket Cemetery – Cemetery illustrations | Etsy

Landis Blair is an amazing illustrator and is offering pre-orders of this beautiful Pocket Cemetery booklet. “A convenient reminder of your pending mortality.” This 24-page booklet contains 21 black & white illustrations of a variety of cemeteries and is estimated to ship by the end of November. They also offer prints and stickers in their Etsy shop.

Tombstone Zip Hoodie | Find a Grave

Did you know that Find a Grave has an online store? My favorite item in their shop is this grey zip-up hoodie, perfect to keep you warm while you wander cemeteries and fulfill photo requests. 

There you have it, 13 gift ideas for the taphophiles in your life.

Thanks for reading! 

AGS Conference 2022

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. It features events like field trips, conservation workshops, hands-on sessions, 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. 

The 2022 AGS Conference logo was designed by Lynne Baggett

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 with only a friend or two, 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! 

Monument Mojito – I may have over did it on the mint.

I hope that the AGS considers making the virtual aspect of the conference a mainstay, even though there were some technical difficulties. Unfortunately, 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 though. 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!


References:

The Association for Gravestone Studies

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 though.

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! 

Logo for the Association for Gravestone Studies, www.gravestonestudies.org

“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.” – 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.

To learn more about the Association for Gravestone Studies, please visit their website. You can also find AGS on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks for reading!