By Jennifer Blomberg, Senior Conservation Technician

Close up of gravestone

Detail, Emily Johnson gravestone from the collections of the Duke University Archives.

The gravestone of Emily Johnson (1895) came to the Conservation Lab without any previous housing or protection.  The gravestone presented obvious challenges in creating a supportive and protective enclosure that will adequately safeguard this solid stone burial piece. While this object is far from delicate per se, it is very vulnerable due to its size and weight. Read about the history of the Johnson gravestone on The Devil’s Tale.

Goals For The Housing

  • The enclosure had to be supportive of the weight of the gravestone.
  • Access areas were needed to permit two people to be able to carefully lift the gravestone out.

Creating The Enclosure

I thought this enclosure would be a challenge to design and fabricate, but it turned out to be a considerable problem-solving mission requiring brainstorming sessions with all of my colleagues. The process incorporated some trial and error, and some experimenting to be able to get to the final box arrangement.

Here’s what I did:

  • Constructed a double-walled tray for the stone with room for hand access. I lined this tray with Volara to provide cushion.
  • Made fills for the corners to support the curve of the top of the gravestone.
  • Constructed a drop-spine box and adhered the cushioned-tray to the bottom of the box.
  • Lined the sides and trays with more Volara.
  • Labeled the box with “Very Heavy- Handle with Care” labels.
Final box for gravestone

The final box for the gravestone.

The Final Box

Overall, I am very content with the final box and believe that it achieves the goals we sought out to accomplish. It will provide a supportive and protective enclosure for this gravestone.




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