2007_05_arts_woodlawn.jpgMany look at Woodlawn Cemetery as more than just a graveyard. The NY Times reports this will be true on another level soon as the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, who took title of the cemetery archives a year ago, is now receiving "the family correspondence that illuminates the backgrounds of the dead and their mourners."

A new spirit has been released at the 144-year-old cemetery with the transfer of the cemetery’s vast archives to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library of Columbia University. The trove includes architectural designs, maps, photographs, letters and mausoleum blueprints — some 800 linear feet. The size of the collection is unsurprising; with more than 300,000 burials and 1,300 family mausoleums, Woodlawn is the world capital of mausoleums.

Amongst the documents already on view are a bank envelope with Duke Ellington’s signature and a sketch for Miles Davis’s burial lot monument. The entire undertaking is projected to take five years and $850,000 to process. The files which have not been properly examined yet contain some familiar names: Herman Melville, Fiorello La Guardia, Joseph Pulitzer, the Juilliards and many more.

Cemeteries are known for keep meticulous records, making this - as Gerald Beasley, the library’s director, coined it, "a collective memory of the city," while The Times notes that "the archives may prove the Bronx equivalent of the grave of King Tut."

Photo via Manuela Siener's Flickr.