Cemetery Preservation

In June 2018, The Montana History Foundation hosted a Cemetery Preservation Technology Workshop in order to provide education and training on the technologies available in the field of cemetery preservation. In addition to classroom demonstrations, this workshop included field demonstrations and working field trips to area cemeteries.

The workshop was funded by a $25,400 “Preservation and Training Grant” from the National Park Service, The Montana History Foundation, as well as many generous donors. Thanks to the grant from the National Park Service, a training video of the workshop will be available in Fall 2018. The training video will be free to the public and made available on this webpage.

Click Here to Download a Copy of the Workshop Program

Crystal Alegria, Co-Director and MT Project Archaeology Coordinator, The Extreme History Project
Crystal B. Alegria has worked in the field of heritage outreach and education for the past sixteen years with an emphasis on community history, curriculum development, and archaeological site stewardship. Crystal is the co-director and co-founder of The Extreme History Project, a nonprofit based in Bozeman, MT that brings history to the public. She is also the Montana coordinator for Project Archaeology, a national heritage education program based at Montana State University. Crystal was the president of the Montana Archaeological Society and currently serves on the Bozeman Historic Preservation Advisory Board and the Bozeman Preservation Advocacy Group. She has a B.S. in Anthropology and an M.A. in History from Montana State University.

Riley Auge, Curator of Anthropological Collections Facility, University of Montana
Riley Auge, Ph.D., RPA, holds an M.A. in Folklore and Mythology and a Ph.D. in Anthropology/Archaeology. She has spent 17 years researching the material manifestations of traditional belief systems of various cultural and ethnic groups. She recently received the Society for Historical Archaeology’s Kathleen Kirk Gilmore Award for her dissertation Silent Sentinels: Archaeology, Magic, and the Gendered Control of Domestic Boundaries in New England, 1620-1725, which will be published this fall. She has published articles in national and international journals on the material culture of ritual and magic, presented at national and international conferences on the subject, and teaches classes and workshops on ritual, religion, and magic. Her research projects include the cemeteries of Virginia and Nevada City, MT. She is currently a curator for the University of Montana’s Anthropological Collections Facility and teaches in the University of Montana anthropology department.

Ellen Baumler, Interpretive Historian, Montana Historical Society
Ellen Baumler earned her Ph.D. in English, Classics and History from the University of Kansas. She has been the interpretive historian and National Register sign program coordinator at the Montana Historical Society since 1992. Ellen is a longtime member of the Humanities Montana Speakers Bureau, a 2011 recipient of the Governor’s Award for the Humanities, and co-curator of the Society’s recent award-winning Chinese exhibit, “Forgotten Pioneers.” The author of many books and articles, Ellen’s current project is a book on mortuary customs and cemeteries in Montana. She has also authored National Register nominations including those for Helena’s Home of Peace and Benton Avenue cemeteries.

John Grebenkemper, Historic Human Remains Detection Canine Handler, Institute for Canine Forensics (ICF)
John Grebenkemper joined the Institute for Canine Forensics in 2007 after retiring from computer design. His dog, Kayle, is a certified Historic Human Remains Detection dog. He and Kayle have traveled extensively to various archaeological projects to locate burial locations. The oldest burial they have found has been dated as 9,000 years old. This past summer they traveled to the South Pacific on a National Geographic project to look for the remains of Amelia Earhart. The material found on that expedition is currently under analysis to extract the degraded DNA. Before joining ICF, John spent 40 years working in the fields of physics and engineering research. He received a Ph.D. from Stanford University, has published more than 20 technical papers, and received 8 U.S. patents.

Kirsten Green, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Montana
Kirsten received her B.S. in Anthropology from Southern Methodist University in 2006, then received her M.A. in Forensic Anthropology from the University of Montana in 2008. She received her Ph.D. in Physical Anthropology from the University of Montana in 2016 with research on stable isotope analysis of burials from a Maya site in Belize. Between her masters and Ph.D. programs, she worked for several Customer Relationship Management (CRM) companies in California before landing a job at the State of California as an associate environmental planner. She is currently a visiting assistant professor at the University of Montana in the Anthropology Department. Kirsten teaches osteology, Forensic & mortuary archaeology, introduction to physical anthropology, and a seminar in bioarchaeology. Kirsten also consults with the State Medical Examiner’s Office on forensic cases for the State of Montana. She continues her work in Belize each summer excavating, documenting, and cataloging burials for several sites in the Belize River Valley.

John S. Harris, University of Montana
How might surface vegetation divulge the past story of a place to archaeologists? How do archaeologists know what to look for in site vegetation? These overlooked questions preoccupied John Harris’ master’s thesis, “The Sylvan Blindspot.” He holds an M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Montana, whereas a Ph.D. student, he investigates the vegetal signatures of past human activities at historic log cabins and cemetery sites in Western Montana. His research interests include landscape archaeology, historical archaeology, historical ecology, and historical ethnobotany.

Adela Morris, President and CEO, Institute for Canine Forensics (ICF) 
Adela Morris has been active in human remains detection with her dogs since 1986 and has deployed her dogs on hundreds of searches specializing in cold cases, crime scenes and historic and prehistoric burials. She is an instructor and evaluator for Human Remains Detection dogs. Adela is the founder and director of the Institute for Canine Forensics (ICF), a nonprofit organization that specializes in locating historic and prehistoric burials. She’s also the founder of the Canine Specialized Search Team, a volunteer resource for the Santa Clara County (CA) Sheriff’s Office. Jasper is her 6th certified detection dog and Jett, her 16-month-old puppy, is currently working on his ICF historical human remains certification. 

John W. Olson, Archaeologist/GIS Specialist, The Extreme History Project
John W. Olson graduated Montana State University in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology, focus on Archaeology, and a minor in Geographic Information Sciences (GIS). He has volunteered and worked for The Extreme History Project since 2013, and leads historic tours in downtown Bozeman. He is the GPS/GIS project coordinator for the Nevada City Cemetery GPS Mapping Project since March 2015 and has been part of the project to create the cemetery database. While working as the store manager and buyer for the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT, he is investigating options and opportunities for pursuing a master’s degree in archaeology and furthering his education in GIS.

Charlene Porsild, President & CEO, The Montana History Foundation
Charlene Porsild, a native of Canada’s Yukon, is an author and historian with a passion for the mountain west. An avid trail user, Charlene enjoys hiking with her sweet pups, Cinnamon and Jack. When not hustling for history, find Charlene exploring Montana’s many ghost towns and historic cemeteries with her family.

John, Robert, and Daren Rummel, Montana Granite Craftsmen
Montana Granite is a locally owned and operated family business, providing almost a hundred years of experience to Montana families. The Rummel family and Montana Granite have a long-established history in the Helena community, dating back to 1930 when John Rummel opened the first shop on Montana Avenue after working with John Kain at the Kain Granite Company. Sixteen years later, the family built the current monument shop on Forestvale Road and then in 1958, expanded to Great Falls. Montana Granite Company of Helena changed hands in 1971 when Ken Ludtke and his family purchased it. They serviced Helena until the early 2000’s when they sold it back to the Rummels who are now the fourth generation of Montana Granite monument makers and craftsmen.

Ethan Ryan, Archaeologist/GPR Specialist, University of Montana
Ethan Ryan is currently in the Ph.D. program for Anthropology/Archaeology at the University of Montana. He has been the ground penetrating radar specialist for iResponse, LLC., an affiliate of the Chippewa Cree Cultural Resource Office of Rocky Boy’s Reservation since Feb 2017. Ethan previously worked for the Bureau of Land Management and has worked on large-scale research projects in Alaska, British Columbia, Montana, and Wyoming. Ethan’s specialties in addition to GPR include GIS, lithic analysis, and spatial analysis. In his free time, he enjoys fly-fishing, hiking, and playing music in two Missoula-based bands.

James Straight, Tribal and Cultural Resource Officer, Montana Department of Environmental Quality
James Strait is the tribal and cultural resources officer, as well as the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) manager for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. James holds a B.S. in Anthropology from Iowa State University and an M.A. in Archaeology, specializing in the Northern Plains and stone tool analysis from the University of Arkansas. James has worked in the private sector doing cultural resource management throughout the Midwest, Southeast, and Southwest, but his primary focus in archaeology has been in Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas. Since joining DEQ in 2009, James has worked for the facility siting program. The UAS program within DEQ was started by James in 2012, and has become an invaluable toolset for many of the programs within DEQ such as small miner exploration, remediation and abandoned mine lands.

Mary F. Striegel, Chief, Materials Conservation, National Park Service
Mary Striegel is responsible for NCPTT’s Materials Conservation Program. Mary’s current work focuses on the evaluation of preservation treatments for preventing damage to cultural resources. Among several projects, she and her staff oversee NCPTT’s National Cemetery Preservation Initiative. Through this initiative, the program investigates preservation treatments geared towards cemeteries and develops seminars and workshops nationwide. Mary came to NCPTT in 1995 from the Getty Conservation Institute. She earned her Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis, where she pursued interdisciplinary research on residual stresses in numismatics.

Tim Urbaniak, Professor (Emeritus) of Drafting and Design Technology, Montana State University, TRU Technologies, LLC
For 20 years, Dr. Timothy Urbaniak led projects that explored archaeology and history through applications of technology. As the past director of the Montana State University Billings Archaeological Field Team, he has led students and volunteers in projects and field schools that have included rock art and historic inscription surveys, 3D reconstructions of historic sites, digital imaging applications, surveying technologies, desktop virtual reality, three-dimensional scanning and applications of multimedia. In 2014, he completed his Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Montana where he studied historic inscriptions and their role as a form of residual cultural communication. He is now retired emeritus from teaching following his 29th year at Montana State University in the Drafting and Design Program and currently manages TRU Technologies LLC, a company specializing in applying technologies to archaeological and anthropological research. His research work exploring and documenting historic inscriptions continues.

Canine Forensics or Historic Human Remains Detection Dogs is a relatively new method using trained dogs to identify and map areas of human burial.  It has been effectively used to delineate boundaries and extent of burial sites to 1,000 years old. It is a highly effective technology for mountainous cemeteries where it is difficult to bring in other equipment and/or where burials have been disrupted by erosion, making GPR and other methods ineffective. 

Canines trained to alert on specific scents have long been utilized in law enforcement, U.S. Customs, the military and search and rescue work.  The Historical Human Remains Detection (HHRD) canine is the newest in the evolution of detection canines. Its training and certification make it a unique resource available for the purpose of assisting in the search for historical and prehistoric graves.

The dog’s nose is a unique tool that can aid in locating burials. It can be utilized by archaeologists who use a wide range of multidisciplinary techniques to locate historic and prehistoric burials. The specifically trained HHRD dog is an additional tool that can be layered to collaborate with other methods of detection.

Institute for Canine Forensics (ICF) canine resources have been requested by cultural resource management firms, archaeologists, American Indian tribes, construction companies, federal, state and local agencies, cemetery preservation foundations and families looking to locate lost family cemeteries.

For more information or to contract with ICF for your project, contact ICF at:

(650) 503-4473
[email protected] 

Workshop Documents
Click on the links below to download the workshop presentations from ICF representatives, Adela Morris and John Grebenkemper.

Adela’s Presentation
John’s Presentation


Cemetery Botany

Vegetation plays a role in creating a landscape, which ultimately helps create a sense of ‘place’. Phytoarchaeology, the study of plants in archaeology, can be useful for dating archaeological sites. Further specialization within this study provides researchers the ability to analyze plants as a burial indicator, including the symbolism of certain types and properties of plants.

University of Montana Ph.D. student, John Harris, joined the Cemetery Preservation Technology Workshop to educate our attendees on what to look for in cemetery site vegetation and how that vegetation tells the story of that place to archaeologists. John’s research interests include landscape archaeology, historical archaeology, historical ecology, and historical ethnobotany.

In addition to presenting at the workshop, John joined the working field trip to the Marysville, MT cemetery, where he analyzed and cataloged his vegetation analysis. Click here to download his initial findings. Understanding the vegetation of a place is one piece to understanding the history of an area. 

If you are interested in learning more about what plants can teach preservationists and how to record such vegetation, visit the following websites:

https://umontana.academia.edu/JohnHarris and 

For more information or to contract with John S. Harris for your project, contact John at [email protected].

Workshop Documents
Click on the links below to download the workshop documents from John S. Harris.

Cemetery Botany Notes – please note that these were not originally intended for distribution, John has graciously shared his draft version for reference.