Green-Wood Cemetery is the latest NYC institution to bring their archives out of the analog era. They'll be digitizing their 177 year-old archive collection, thanks to a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The $40,000 grant will support the first and critical planning phase of digitizing the historic collections.

Some items in their archives date back to before the Cemetery’s founding in 1838, and have never been available to the public. They'll be bringing online "meticulous records and ephemera, all connected to the more than half a million individuals interred in the Cemetery," amongst other items—while they haven't begun the process yet, they shared a few images with us today to illustrate the type of items their collection holds.

Lisa Alpert, Director of Development and Marketing at the Green-Wood, explained the significance of the project to us earlier today:

Green-Wood’s archives and historic collections stitch together a unique picture of two cities - New York and Brooklyn - whose populations experienced explosive growth in the period of the cemetery’s first century in existence (1838-1938). Making our collections more accessible for academic study will encourage new scholarship, research and historical analysis of this important period in our history.

The collection - millions of historical documents - contains exciting and unique elements, as well. To our knowledge, this will be the largest collection of cemetery records in the United States ever to be digitized and made available to the public. They relate to hundreds of thousands of persons buried at Green-Wood, including Boss Tweed, Horace Greeley, Samuel F.B. Morse, Bill “The Butcher” Poole, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Lola Montez, early baseball pioneers, and over 5,000 Civil War veterans.

Just a few examples are the burial records of individuals killed during the Civil War Draft Riots; the correspondence surrounding the double funeral of Theodore Roosevelt’s mother and first wife on Valentine’s Day, 1884; and the rushed burial of the (allegedly) illegitimate son of Henry Ward Beecher and Elizabeth Tilton.

(Photo by Tod Seelie/Gothamist)

The millions of archive records include:

  • Documentation of the Cemetery’s founding, including original documents relating to the acquisition of cemetery property from prominent Brooklynites including the Bennett, Bergen, Wyckoff, and Schermerhorn families, title searches, deeds and maps of Green-Wood’s subsequent land acquisitions.
  • Large-scale hand-written chronological burial books, dating back to 1840 containing meticulously and beautifully recorded data, including cause of death, age at death, nativity and occupation. These records present an extraordinary resource to the field of public health history.
  • Architectural drawings and blueprints of Green-Wood’s mausoleums and other architecture.
  • More than 10,000 archival photographs documenting distinct changes to the condition of individual monuments over time.
  • Almost 200 oil paintings by notable artists who are interred at Green-Wood.
  • An array of artifacts relating to Green-Wood’s permanent residents including a Whip car from a William F. Mangels (1866-1958) amusement park ride; art deco-style radios by the famed industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960); a Tiffany-engraved invitation to Albert Bailey for the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883; and more.

They aim to complete the massive project by April 2017.