With Good Reason

Documenting Arlington National Cemetery
November 9th, 2013

Image courtesy flickr user bexatious

Image courtesy flickr user bexatious

With its rolling green hills and its nearly 400,000 graves, Arlington National Cemetery is one of our nation’s most impressive military tributes. What’s also impressive is the work that goes on behind the scenes to create a meaningful experience for visitors. Debra Lattanzi Shutika (George Mason University) and Kerry Kaleba (George Mason University) spent a month observing the inner workings of Arlington as part of the Field School for Cultural Documentation. Also featured: There are countless books on gardening and tree care. Joe Murray (Blue Ridge Community College) says some of the advice does more harm than good. Plus: From international competitions like the Van Cliburn to battles of high school marching bands, competition in music has become a way of life for aspiring musicians. Wayne Gallops (Radford University) says too much competition can stifle a young musician’s growth.

Later in the show: The Victorians photographed their dead before burial. Abraham Lincoln’s death might have popularized embalming. Some people today have their ashes made into diamonds. Bernard Means (Virginia Commonwealth University) studies how and why we bury our dead—and how that’s changed over the last few centuries. Plus: a trip to some orphan graveyards—forgotten places where we’ve buried our dead. Also featured: They’re called Lost Communities—the places on the map that have lost their original industry or way of life. Sometimes they’re still struggling to survive; other times they no longer exist at all. Terri Fisher (Virginia Tech) has visited the general stores, schools, train depots, and post offices of towns along Virginia’s back roads and interviewed longtime residents and brought those places back to life in her new book, Lost Communities of Virginia.

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Fifty years ago this month, President Kennedy was assassinated.  Afterward, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, instead of in Boston as many expected.  The Kennedy gravesite, along with other famous memorials, now draws millions of visitors to Arlington every year.  One Virginia researcher has documented the cemetery’s maintenance and the changes brought by technology.