An Invitation to Help Transcribe Our History — From Home!

May 1, 2020

Mount Auburn is pleased to announce an exciting new transcription project that welcomes your participation in making our history more accessible. The Cemetery’s Historical Collections & Archives staff have preserved our most significant archival documents, but many of these are hand-written 19th-century letters and reports that are not easy to read. By transcribing these materials, researchers will be able to read and search across thousands of pages for the first time. That’s where you come in!

We are launching an innovative web platform that will bring you into direct connection with digitized documents that tell the story of Mount Auburn: the decisions and discourse among the founders, trustees, superintendents, sculptors, gardeners, and lot proprietors relating to the design and daily care of the Cemetery’s landscapes and memorials. By clicking:\mountauburncemetery from your own computer you will be able to choose from a variety of Mount Auburn documents such as superintendents’ letters and trustees’ meeting minutes. Transcribers will find a treasure trove of content including 19th-century sculpture commissions, the Sphinx, Mount Auburn’s first greenhouse and nursery, and Bigelow Chapel stained glass.

We welcome members of the Mount Auburn community as well as interested historians, archivists, and members of the public to help transcribe these records. Your collective contributions will help unlock the secrets of our history and make the completion of this large-scale project possible. Future researchers will be able to read and search these materials, deepening the understanding of Mount Auburn’s role in our country’s history.

1877 letter about finding spring bulbs
December 1877, Superintendent James Lovering wrote that the Gardener was unable to find spring bulbs.

“There’s nothing more exciting than the thrill of deciphering a letter written hundreds of years ago, discovering its contents, and then being able to share it with researchers and the public,” says Curator of Historical Collections & Archives Meg L. Winslow. Winslow thanks consultant Thom Burns, who spearheaded the project. Burns explains, “This program not only fills the immediate need to continue to make our collection available, but it brings Mount Auburn into the forefront of innovation and research. It will allow volunteers, docents, employees, and the public to directly access our most important historical materials. The best thing is that anyone with an internet connection can help transcribe and access our archival collections.”

With your help, a wealth of new content relating to these rich, historical documents will be unlocked—providing new insights into America’s first rural cemetery and the first designed landscape open to the public in North America.

This project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Interested to learn more?

Go to and click “Sign-Up” in the top right corner.

After you have created an account you can return to our landing page,, or search Mount Auburn in “Find a Project.” Now you’re ready to start transcribing! At the bottom of each page you will find an easy-to-follow set of transcription guidelines and a place to leave comments. For more detailed directions email us at:

Lead photo: September 1854, Secretary Henry M. Parker recorded the Mount Auburn trustees vote to purchase three marble statues of “persons distinguished in American History.” The statues were commissioned by Mount Auburn for Bigelow Chapel and today are in the collection of the Harvard Museum.

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  1. Pingback: Final Testament | Landscape Architecture Magazine

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