Category: News

SOLSTICE: Reflections on Winter Light

October 7, 2022

Join us this December for

SOLSTICE: Reflections on Winter Light

Created by MASARY Studios
Commissioned by Mount Auburn Cemetery

SOLSTICE: Reflections on Winter Light is an annual event at Mount Auburn Cemetery that includes an outdoor journey through large-scale light and sound artworks, and an indoor experience with live music and candle lighting. Guests are invited to walk through the light-filled landscape and explore the Winter Solstice atmosphere, and to reflect on moments of change as the year ends and a new cycle begins. Connect to a landscape of exceptional beauty, consider an intention for the new year, or commemorate the memory of a loved one. Let the Solstice light your way as you encounter the unique spirit of Mount Auburn. 

This year’s event takes place December 10 – 21 and tickets will go on sale for the general public on November 2nd.

Join or renew your membership today!  Members will get advanced access to ticketing and receive a 50% discount on all Adult General Admission tickets. 

Event Dates & Times:

Dec 10-11; Dec 13-18; Dec 20-21

Timed entries begin at 5:00 PM and continue every half-hour. The final nightly entry time is 8:30pm.

Ticket information:

Adult, FOMAC Members: $15
Adult: $30
Youth(ages 6-16): $5
Child (5 and under): Free

Member Ticketing pre-sale begins Oct 26, 2022; Public Ticketing starts November 2nd.

Images and video by Aram Boghosian.

Documentary Ranks Mount Auburn Among “World’s Greatest Cemeteries”

Documentary Ranks Mount Auburn Among “World’s Greatest Cemeteries”
June 1, 2022

Mount Auburn Cemetery was recently featured on PBS in the documentary series World’s Greatest Cemeteries. It is an honor for us to see our hallowed resting places, beautiful grounds, and dedicated staff receive national recognition.

The episode also features interviews with David Barnett, former Mount Auburn President & CEO, as well as Bree Harvey, our Vice President of Cemetery & Visitor Services. It’s rare for us to get a chance to speak directly to such a large audience, telling our story of Mount Auburn’s unique, multi-faceted role as a vibrant urban green space, public garden, and historic site – not just within Greater Boston, but as a destination for tourists, history buffs, and nature lovers from around the world.

The show, produced and hosted by Roberto Mighty, introduces PBS viewers to Mount Auburn’s pioneering role as the first rural, or garden, cemetery in the United States. It explores the lives of several prominent people laid to rest on our grounds, including Dorothea Dix, a pioneering advocate for the mentally ill, and Edmonia Lewis, a renowned 19th-century African-American/Native-American sculptor. It also features dramatizations of several stories, including a freedom seeker-turned philanthropist, and a medical student’s sacrifice during the Smallpox Epidemic of 1849. (Preview the episode featuring Mount Auburn here.)

We are truly grateful to Roberto, who has helped to elevate Mount Auburn’s profile and introduce us to thousands of new community members. This comes at a time when Mount Auburn needs new friends, visitors, and supporters more than ever. Mount Auburn was featured in this series because of its rich and impactful history, but rather than rest on what we have already done, we are aligning the organization for a bright future. Today, we need support at all levels so that Mount Auburn can continue to redefine what cemeteries can be.

The best way we can do that is for our existing community to tell their friends, family, and networks that Mount Auburn is worthy of their support, long after the series is finished. We depend on your generous donations to keep our 175 acres of greenspace, monuments, buildings, and collections well-cared for and thriving, as well as to support our robust roster of arts and educational programming.

Here’s how you can help: ·

  • Join or renew your membership to Friends of Mount Auburn.
  • If you don’t already, “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
  • Encourage your friends and family to visit us, in person or virtually.

Thanks as always for your support. We hope to see you at Mount Auburn soon!


Visit Elena Li’s “The Art of Living Together” Exhibit, March 2022

Visit Elena Li’s “The Art of Living Together” Exhibit, March 2022
February 25, 2022

After a productive year in Mount Auburn’s cohort of Artists-in-Residence, Zhonghe (Elena) Li is exhibiting work from her project, “The Art of Living Together,” at the Watertown Free Public Library in March 2022. Supported with a grant from the Watertown Cultural Council, “The Art of Living Together” will include Chinese papercuts and watercolors to show the delicate balance between people and nature and interconnectedness of all beings, inspired by Li’s observation of wildlife, plants and trees, and her reflection on life and death over Mount Auburn’s 175-acre landscape. 

Red papercut artwork of birds sharing a fish
Watercolored papercut by Elena Li

You can find the exhibit in the second floor gallery space of the Watertown Free Public Library (123 Main Street, Watertown, MA) through the end March 2022 in conjunction with the Library’s One Book, One Watertown programming.

Visit the exhibit anytime during open hours, or attend a special program:

Gallery reception, March 9, 6:00 pm

Chinese papercutting workshop, March 26, 2:30 pm

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Watertown Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

Introducing Mina Burton – Our First Barnett Fellow!

Introducing Mina Burton – Our First Barnett Fellow!
February 22, 2022

In 2021, Mount Auburn Cemetery established the David P. Barnett Fund for Horticulture and Urban Ecology in honor of the retirement of President & CEO Dave Barnett. The Barnett Fund provides stipends for talented young women and men to receive hands-on training in horticulture, urban ecology, and climate action/sustainability work from senior Mount Auburn staff, as well as opportunities for research, travel, and professional development. The long-term goal is to train a new generation of leaders in these sectors. Today, we are thrilled to introduce our inaugural Barnett Fellow, ecologist and recent Lesley University graduate Mina Burton. Read on to learn about the GIS StoryMap she will be creating for Mount Auburn, and the opportunities it offers everyone to engage with our ecology work in new ways!

Tell us a bit about yourself. What drew you to pursuing a career in ecology?

I’ve lived in Massachusetts most of my life and currently live in Cambridge, where I completed my undergraduate degree at Lesley University. I transferred to Lesley in 2019 as a junior. During this process, I also made the decision to call it quits on the psychology degree I’d been working on, and began pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies. As you can imagine, Environmental Studies is a very broad discipline, and as a transfer student, I was initially worried about figuring out exactly what career path I wanted to take with my degree.

During my first semester at Lesley, I took a course called “New England Field Studies” taught by Professor David Morimoto. Each Saturday, we would visit different parks and natural settings in the Greater Boston Area and discuss the natural history and ecology of those places. Mount Auburn was one of the last sites we visited, and was definitely a favorite of mine. That trip was when I first learned of the citizen science and biodiversity research being done at Mount Auburn. A little over two years later, I feel fortunate to now directly support those same studies in my current work using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I really credit David Morimoto’s class and mentorship in helping me find my passion for ecology and wildlife conservation, and am thankful for the opportunity he gave me to first get involved with research here at Mount Auburn.

Although you’re just starting your Barnett Fund Fellowship, you are not new to Mount Auburn – could you talk about the work you’ve already been doing with us through Lesley University? How has that helped inspire your project for this fellowship?

I formally started working at Mount Auburn through a co-grant with Lesley University in April 2021. The focus of my work at the time was primarily to create maps for the citizen science and biodiversity studies. These map layers included features such as acoustic monitoring sites used in bat research, the specific trees surveyed in Mount Auburn’s phenology and arthropod surveys, and the amphibian coverboards used in the red-backed salamander reintroduction survey.

During my first few months on the job, I had the opportunity to meet individually with the researchers behind these biodiversity studies. In addition to obtaining data and discussing how I could support the aims of each study, I came out of these meetings feeling really fortunate to get a first-hand explanation of the ecological significance of each study. Mount Auburn is a unique location in that it offers such well-maintained habitat, and unlike public parks, it’s also closed to the public for the evenings. This makes it a sort of oasis for many kinds of wildlife seeking refuge in urban settings. Biodiversity research at Mount Auburn can offer a lot of insight into how we can support wildlife here and in other urban areas.

The inspiration for my fellowship project came about through these interviews and while creating my initial site maps. I wanted to find a way to showcase the work these researchers were doing that would be useful to a variety of interested parties and stakeholders – citizen scientists, researchers, students, funders, Cemetery visitors, and the general public as well.

Over the next six months, you will be creating a GIS StoryMap for Mount Auburn, to support our citizen science program and ecological studies. Could you describe what that is and how it works?

I do all my GIS work using ArcGIS products, which are supplied by a company called ESRI. One of these products is ESRI StoryMaps. StoryMaps is designed to enable online storytelling by integrating GIS maps with text, images, videos, and more. On the user’s end, StoryMaps look and function essentially like websites or blogs. For creators, StoryMaps allows for easy integration of interactive GIS maps. I personally like this format because it allows me to give additional context to maps and data. My goal is always to make GIS more accessible and engaging for all audiences, regardless of expertise.

The StoryMap I’ll be creating will individually showcase all the citizen science and biodiversity studies being implemented at the Cemetery. It will include study descriptions, interactive maps, images, and key findings from each research project.

What excites you about working with this format?

During college, I worked as a peer tutor to help fellow students understand content and complete coursework. Tutoring taught me that being able to understand information is less about intelligence, and more about receiving information in a format that is engaging and suits one’s learning style. Interpreting data can be challenging, especially when scientific literacy isn’t taught evenly across the board. I initially became interested in GIS because I felt that mapping out data visually is often more compelling to the average person than, say, data tables. StoryMaps offer additional format options that can make content engaging for everyone regardless of learning type. Some people prefer maps, charts, or diagrams, while others would rather read narrative descriptions, or perhaps opt for images or videos. I find that working with multiple formats allows me to express the full value of the research being done at Mount Auburn. Maps and narrative text can highlight the findings and valuable implications of research, and I love being able to include great photos and videos of wildlife as well.

What opportunities does a StoryMap offer at a site like Mount Auburn?

In developing the StoryMap, I knew I wanted to create a tool that would remain accessible to all audiences but still allow for a depth of information that would be useful for researchers and stakeholders. For researchers, this StoryMap can offer a convenient way to highlight and share research. I hope it can provide a jumping-off point for collaboration between researchers both within and outside of Mount Auburn’s research team.

For existing citizen scientists, it can be rewarding and motivating to get a clearer understanding and accompanying visual as to how their data is utilized. The StoryMap can provide citizen science resources, interactive learning opportunities, and live site maps to assist with fieldwork. Web apps and training videos can also be featured down the line. Sharing research outcomes can assist in recruiting new citizen scientists or student volunteers.

For the general public, maps can offer an entry point to research. For those who already visit the Cemetery on a regular basis, photos and maps of study sites help contextualize research within a landscape they are already familiar with. I experienced this firsthand – I grew up visiting Mount Auburn nearly every year, yet re-familiarizing myself with the landscape through an ecological lens gave me a deeper appreciation for the Cemetery.

The StoryMap will include numerous citizen science projects. Do you have a favorite?

I’ve really enjoyed learning about all of Mount Auburn’s citizen science and biodiversity studies; it would be hard to choose a favorite! With that said, I’ve recently had the opportunity to work more closely with Lesley University professor Christopher Richardson. He monitors bat activity to determine when and where bats are most active at Mount Auburn, and to assess to what degree these bats are afflicted by White-nose syndrome. This research is so critical because this disease spreads very rapidly and has dramatically decreased bat populations in North America. Chris believes that Mount Auburn may provide crucial habitat to support bats in the face of such a huge threat. Recently, I’ve been helping Chris investigate how differences in landscape and vegetation structure might impact bat activity at Mount Auburn. I look forward to working further on this, and to working more closely with other researchers at Mount Auburn over the course of my fellowship!