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National Cemetery Administration Launches Project to Index Monuments

Steve Paul Johnson, July 13, 2002

The National Cemetery Administration (NCA), a division of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, has launched a project to index all of the monuments located within the 153 national cemeteries under its management. The NCA is partnering with Save Outdoor Sculpture! (SOS), a branch of Heritage Preservation Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving America's heritage.

The monuments targeted for indexing are the plaques and sculptures erected in honor of America's heroes. This project does not include tombstones.

Throughout the Spring of 2002, the NCA recruited nearly sixty volunteers to visit national cemeteries, and compile information from all of the monuments. SOS will coordinate the efforts of the volunteers.

The information volunteers are compiling includes all the physical and historical information that can be determined, including: location in cemetery, dimensions, setting, material(s), structural condition, environmental threats, donor, inscription information (including names of persons), date(s) erected/dedicated, cultural association, associated conflict, artist/sculptor, builder/founder, and any historical information the volunteer can locate in libraries and repositories. Photographs will be taken of each monument, as well.

In 1999, Congress passed legislation (Public Law 106-117, Section 613) requiring the NCA to conduct a study to examine the finest cemeteries across the United States and the world, and make improvements to ensure that America's national cemeteries are the finest in the world. This study is known as "The National Shrine Commitment".

Congress sought to ensure that each national cemetery be maintained as a national shrine, defining it as:

"...a place of honor and memory that declares to the visitor or family member who views it that within its majestic setting each and every veteran may find a sense of serenity, of historic sacrifice and nobility of purpose. Each visitor should depart feeling that the grounds, the gravesites and the environs of the national cemetery are a beautiful and awe-inspiring tribute to those who gave much to preserve our nation's freedom and way of life.''

To carry out this directive, the NCA launched this project to examine the current state of the cemeteries under its management, particularly the monuments, so that it can determine what improvements can be made, as well as what new monuments it can erect where to erect them, what materials to use, and which artists to hire.

After the NCA completes its study of the monuments, the information compiled from the project will be placed into a computer database that will be available to the public via the Internet through the Smithsonian American Art Museum. People will be able to search the database for monuments and inscription information.

A total of $3,500.00 has been appropriated from tax dollars to cover some of the costs of this project, including the costs of mailing information to the NCA, purchasing film, and the production of CD-ROMs containing photographs of the monuments. Volunteers are expected to pay for their own transportation and for the cost of developing the film.

- Steve Paul Johnson

Press Release issued by the National Cemetery Administration.

For more information, contact Sara Leach at the National Cemetery Administration.

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