Not only are Green-Wood’s grounds brimming with art and history, there is also a veritable treasure trove in its archives and collections. Green-Wood’s institutional records date back to the Cemetery’s founding in 1838—thousands of documents pertaining to more than 570,000 burials across its 478 acres. In addition, Green-Wood has acquired and curated a selection of art, artifacts, and documents that further illuminate Green-Wood’s history. They provide insight into the countless stories from beyond our gates.
Green-Wood is dedicated to sharing its history with visitors – both onsite and digitally. We are happy to report that The Green-Wood Historic Fund Collections are receiving more donated works of arts from lot owners than ever before. In 2017, Green-Wood was gifted artworks by artists as varied as Hudson River School painter David Johnson (1827–1908) to late nineteenth-century painters Slava Khodorkovsky (1945–2015) and Arthur Hammer (1932–2012). Green-Wood also received a donation of large-scale photographs taken by Christopher Serrano (1991–2016), a young photographer made famous by his breathtaking images of New York City. Green-Wood’s art collection now spans from the early nineteenth century to the 2010s representing artists from all countries of origin and various artistic styles—with one thing in common, they now rest at Green-Wood.
For Green-Wood, it’s a great privilege, as well as a fulfillment of its mission, to preserve artifacts from the lives of its “permanent residents.” Joseph Hazard Terry (1793–1853) served as a bursar for the Brooklyn Navy Year and is interred in a nineteenth-century mausoleum at Green-Wood. In 2017, an ancestor donated an expansive collection of personal letters, military garb, and portraits. Together, they piece together the life story of this enigmatic man and further the cemetery’s mission of storytelling.
Green-Wood is dedicated to sharing its holdings with as many researchers as possible. Over the course of 2017, Green-Wood staff worked to develop a web portal to the cemetery’s archives and collections. The new site, to be released in 2018, will allow visitors to dig deeper into the cemetery’s archival holdings by exploring many of its collections including historic photographs, brass keys to vaults and mausoleums, nineteenth-century correspondence on ornate company letterheads, and more.
For visitors who are curious about what Green-Wood looked like in its earlier days, a partnership with Urban Archive, a location-based mobile platform, offers a great solution. Archival photographs of the cemetery, each over a century old, have been uploaded to the app. By simply standing in front of any of 188 selected monuments, visitors can see historic photos of that same monument.
With hundreds of thousands of institutional records, including chronological burial logs, correspondence with families in connection with each burial, heirship records and more, Green-Wood’s archives continue to serve as resources for families and outside researchers. Energetic and talented student interns and volunteers, who altogether put in over 800 hours of hard work in 2017, focused on processing Green-Wood’s burial records, architectural drawings, and other projects too voluminous to list here. Green-Wood’s genealogy services, “Greenealogy”, received 678 inquiries in 2017 and sent out 555 research estimates, resulting in almost 200 fulfilled orders. Progress continues to be made in processing and better understanding Green-Woods institutional records.