Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

People Create Places to Remember People

In Cemeteries on September 27, 2009 at 6:18 pm

The National AIDS Memorial Quilt

This is an intensely moving memorial- so extremely personal. It’s joyous and it’s profound. And it’s scale is almost incomprehensible.
This international project grew out of the intense human need to remember loved ones. Many of the earliest victims of AIDS and their friends didn’t have access to traditional familial means of mourning and burial. New forms needed to be created where none had existed.
The Quilt was conceived in November of 1985 by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones. During the annual candlelight march to honor slain Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, Jones learned that over 1,000 San Franciscans had been lost to AIDS. He asked each of his fellow marchers to write on placards the names of friends and loved ones who had died of AIDS. At the end of the march, these placards were taped to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. The wall of names looked like a patchwork quilt.

The first panel of the quilt was created the next year.
Today, it is considered the largest community art project in the world: it contains 47,000 panels, each a memorial to someone lost to AIDS. It was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
So while it doesn’t reside permanently on display in one physical location, it provides the space for the profound need to share memories and the love for those who are now gone.



In Cemeteries on September 20, 2009 at 10:32 pm

A pathway in Pere Lachaise

Pere Lachaise

There are beautiful, vibrant and inspiring older cemeteries. One of the most famous, and a favorite of mine is Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Designed and opened in 1804, it was a new cemetery for Paris, which had banned cemeteries. Cemeteries had been banned inside Paris in 1786,  on the grounds that it presented a health hazard. (This same health hazard also led to the creation of the famous Parisian catacombs in the south of the city.) Several new cemeteries replaced the Parisian ones: Montmartre Cemetery, Père Lachaise, and Montparnasse Cemetery.

When it opened, Pere Lachaise was considered to be situated too far from the city and attracted few funerals. The administrators began a marketing strategy and began transferring the remains of famous French dead to their cemetery.

People began clamoring to be buried among the famous citizens, (now) including: Sarah Bernhardt, Bizet, Maria Callas, Chopin, Delacroix, Isadora Duncan, Yves Montand, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and Oscar Wilde.

Pere Lachaise invites strolling amongst its tree-lined cobbled streets. The detail and ornament of the tombs and mausoleums is entertaining. It’s a beautiful and historical urban spot that is heavily used.

It’s a place of human scale where people want to visit, whether or not they have anyone buried there. It’s been working beautifully for over 200 years, and it can serve as a dynamic model for many other possible cemetery sites.

A perfectly delightful use of a cemetery....

A perfectly delightful use of a cemetery....

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