Founded in 1807, the historic Congressional Cemetary in Washington, D.C., is the resting place of 19 U.S. Senators, 71 members of the House of Representatives and many of the District’s leading citizens. Over the years, many of the monuments and burial vaults have fallen into disrepair.
Forensic Anthropologists Doug Owsley, Kari Bruwelheide and Laurie Burgess of the Natural History Museum are helping Congressional Cemetery staff with their long-term historic preservation efforts. Before the cemetery’s nineteenth century burial vaults can be repaired, the individuals interred there must be carefully removed. Following the excavation of the vaults, Owsley and Bruwelheide analyze the bones and Burgess dates the burials based on the material culture present. The information is then compared to cemetery records to identify the individuals, and when the vault is fully restored, the individuals are reinterred. The project allows Smithsonian staff to help preserve the heritage of the nation’s capital and provides an opportunity to conduct research on a distinct population.
Fox 5 News in Washington recently interviewed Owsley and Burgess about their work.
Posted: 22 October 2009