The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to deviate from normal operating procedures, sometimes very drastically. Historic Oakland Foundation (HOF) is no exception. Overnight, our administrative, education, and programming staff went from sharing ideas, coffee, bad jokes, desks, and even office chairs in a 19th-century converted sexton’s chapel to working from home and only communicating via email and video chat. There is endless planning to be done, but with tours and events canceled or postponed and a gift shop closed can anything be done on Oakland’s grounds? Absolutely.
Because of the outdoor nature of their work, HOF’s preservation and gardens teams have been able to quickly modify protocols and continue their work (almost) as usual. Gardeners at Oakland individually maintain specific sections of the cemetery, so, fortunately, their work has changed very little. Every employee is assigned her or his own set of tools and equipment, which is taken home at the end of the day or stored on-site away from others’ equipment. HOF’s facilities technician, usually responsible for event support and site clean-up, has been trained to assist the garden staff.
Preservation staff typically work in two-person teams consisting of a newer employee and a more experienced one. They systematically re-set and repair headstones and funerary monuments one cemetery block at a time. Like the gardeners, each preservation team member works with his or her own tools on separate blocks assigned based on the skill level needed to complete them. Any monument too challenging due to its level of damage or large size is flagged, either for a more seasoned employee to tackle or for a two-person team to handle when it is safe to do so again.
We are proud to be able to continue to care for historic Oakland Cemetery’s beautiful 48 acres, and we hope that those of you who have continued to visit have enjoyed the fresh air and solace the cemetery’s grounds offer. Please donate to our GAgives on #GivingTuesdayNow campaign and help us keep Historic Oakland Foundation’s momentum going: