From large metropolitan cemeteries to lone graves; cemeteries form an important part of our history and culture. Some cemeteries are significant to the nation at large, some to a religious or cultural group or a region, some to a single family. Cemeteries embody historic, social, aesthetic, scientific and spiritual values. They provide a history of the nation’s growth, present a personal connection with history, demonstrate customs and religious practices, and are highly valued by the community. Cemeteries also demonstrate technical significance in terms of the layout and design of the cemetery, monuments and other markers, gardens and plants.
Appropriate conservation of cemeteries is dependent on having an understanding of this significance. This ensures that conservation policies and works are undertaken in a sympathetic and respectful way. For example, establishing formal English gardens at a rural, open cemetery would not be appropriate to the place or an elaborate stone monument at a discreet lone grave would likewise impact negatively on the gravesite.
It is essential to understand the significance and meaning behind monuments and customs when conserving cemeteries for different religious denominations or cultural groups. Chinese cemeteries for instance have a number of cultural and symbolic customs which can easily be damaged or misrepresented if not properly recognised.
The management, conservation and interpretation of historic cemeteries is dependent on having a detailed understanding of the place including when it was established, what religious or cultural groups used the place and identifying the physical characteristics (e.g. plantings, monuments, ornaments etc.). Caring for cemeteries such as the East Perth Cemeteries, which is highly significant to Western Australia or a small regional or remote cemetery, is reliant on understanding the place and developing policies and actions to retain and respect this significance.