Congratulations to the Monmouth students who were working in a Monmouth Cemetery (Sun Journal, Oct. 28). Cemeteries are, indeed, a link to the past and a record of our history.

I appreciate all that various school groups do to help maintain cemeteries. I was concerned, though, at what I saw in some of the photos.

It is very important that stones be cleaned using water and a soft bristle brush. If you can rub the brush across your face comfortably then is is likely safe to use on a gravestone. Even the mildest soap is not appropriate to use for cleaning gravestones.

There is also the issue of safety.

In some cases, the portions of a monument are not attached to one another. It is critical to use appropriate ladders or equipment when working around gravestones. The markers are more fragile than one would anticipate when considering they are made of stone. Some markers can break very easily and it is never safe to put pressure on a marker or to use it for climbing.

I don’t write this to be critical, as cemeteries are great places for incorporating many learning activities from across the curriculum.

The Association for Gravestone Studies webpage has many links to helpful cemetery information. The Maine Old Cemetery Association has a downloadable brochure on their website about how to safely clean gravestones, and the MOCA periodically offers workshops about various aspects of cemetery care.

Cheryl Willis Patten, Smithfield, MOCA president

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