|We have all had, at one time or another, problems reading an old or damaged stone. The aged face is so badly pitted or eroded that its weathered inscription is near impossible to decypher. What do you do?
Some people have used blacklights coupled with photography, which I am told is a combination that works rather well, most of the time; but what of the remainder of us that cannot find a portable blacklight?
Crayons, chalk (including sidewalk chalk), flour and shaving cream. Yes, it sounds like a weekly shopping list, but it is a list … a list of some harmful materials applied to already damaged gravestones, furthering and speeding up their damage.
In some cases, a lot of researchers do not know the damage they are inflicting. They just Googled “how to record data from a problem stone” and read the results involving one or more of these said items. There is so much bad information out on the Internet; it is mindboggling that all of our old gravestones have not been damaged.
Unfortunately, there are some researchers that do not care; they finally found DAR Patriot, great-great-great uncle Elijah and want photo proof for their research. Period.
In my involvement with numerous genealogical & historical societies, Find-A-Grave & Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK), I have witnessed researchers using chalk and sidewalk chalk – those big, thick colourful pieces children use to draw hopscotch layouts, hungry fire-breathing dragons chasing frightened stick people, and cupid-shot initialed hearts all over your asphalt driveway (which looks like the World’s biggest blackboard patiently waiting for a sidewalk artist).
I have heard … “confessions” … from researchers who used shaving cream or flour. I have also found the results in Alberta & Ontario cemeteries of people who used crayons. And I thought crayons were only good for eating.
If you think about this from a personal hygiene perspective, does it make more sense? Would you apply any of these items to your face and leave it there? Shaving cream is applied and wiped off within a few minutes, but these other items I am not sure of.
Another perspective to consider is the chemical elements and compounds: what chemical reactions occur due to long-term exposure? What happens when it gets wet? What happens when it begins to freeze? What happens when it starts to melt six months later (Or if you live in Alberta, eight months later)?