Friday, May 29, 2015

The Death of Memory

A few days after photographing the annual Procession of Saints in South Philly on May 17, 2015, I found myself at Mount Moriah Cemetery. In fact, I often find myself there, for one reason or another. I was probably making some photographs of “grave” importance (I can hear you laughing all the way over here). My friend Rob wanted to see the results of the latest deforestation project coordinated by the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. Being involved in a Friends’ group in Scotland, I can’t help but think he’s a tad jealous of the ability of the Friends of Mount Moriah, who can just chainsaw down whole swaths of invasive trees, freeing the imprisoned grave markers and other monuments, without having to observe government restrictions on bio-diverse habitats.

Recently deforested area of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia

Anyway, as we were walking, I was taking photos with my Olympus Pen E-P1 digital camera. After turning it on and off a few times over the course of a half hour, I was greeted with the image you see in the display below. The message ! Card Error can strike fear into the heart of the staunchest photographer. It of course implies a problem with the replaceable memory card. There is no card access, either to create and store a new image nor to view any old ones.

What was on the card? Well, about fifty images from the Procession of Saints and a few dozen other things, nothing of great importance. Would they be lost? Possibly. Was I extremely upset? Not so much. After having experienced loss of cameras, images, and memory cards over the past dozen digital years, I’ve learned to be rather paranoid about such things, and therefore, somewhat prepared. If it happens to you, accept the possibility that some of your work may just disappear into the ether. However, all may not be lost.

Don’t believe everything you think!
There were a few things I had going on in my head at the time the warning popped up on my display. First and foremost, I had just read an article in the April 2015 issue of Rangefinder magazine called “Second Chances – With the right software, images from a dead memory card can frequently be brought back to life.

April 2015 issue of Rangefinder
When I read John Rettie’s article, I took it to heart. Basically, he discusses software programs you can use to retrieve, usually successfully, images from a corrupted or damaged memory card. I tried to find an online link to the article, but it seems you need a subscription to view it. There are a few free download services through which you can access the entire April 2015 issue, however (see links below). I will briefly cover some of Rettie's major points.

1.    While services exist that can attempt to retrieve your data for you (e.g. “DriveSavers” at, this can be very expensive ($500-- $1,000 depending on the number of images recovered).
2.       Most downloadable data recovery programs have a free trial scan, at which point you pay for the software if the scan determines that the data can be retrieved.
3.       Below is a list of software you can use to help retrieve your lost images:

“Picture Rescue 2” available for $20 from

“Sandisk Rescuepro” available for $39.99 at

“Photorecovery” available for $40 at

“Lexar Image Rescue 5” available for $34 at

Rettie’s Rangefinder article states that the Lexar program “ships with all Professional-series memory cards from Lexar.” This reminded me that I recently purchased a memory card (I apologize – I don’t remember the brand) that advertised a cloud backup service of some sort. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I suppose a wifi-enabled camera can probably be programmed to save your images to the cloud in addition to the memory card. Great idea.

Will you ever need a data retrieval software program?
Perhaps not. Maybe you’ll just accidentally drop your memory card in the weeds and it will be gone forever. But I would suggest that you do make some attempt to reduce your potential risk of data loss.

How can you minimize your risk?
After all, putting all your hopes in a software program to retrieve your images may not be the wisest thing to do. I routinely use a few backup methods, simply because I am paranoid about loss. And that is because I have lost images to corrupt memory cards, damaged memory cards, and lost memory cards! As Charles Manson once said, “Total paranoia is total awareness.

About a year ago, my laptop disappeared an entire 4 Gigabyte memory card filled with, oh, let’s say about four hundred images. Away they went, like so many saplings cut down in their prime. I had not read the Rangefinder article at that time, so I assumed the images were just gone. I reformatted the card and reused it, which, as the article points out, is not the way to retrieve your images. My images may all have been still on the card, albeit inaccessible in the normal fashion. I probably sealed their doom by reformatting the card.

The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief
Did I lose a lot of precious images on that 4 Gig card? Probably. I tried not to think about the spilled milk. In an unprecedented short period of about two hours, I went through the five steps of grieving and loss (identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying”). I experienced denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. As a result, I have since made a habit of doing the following:

1.  Shoot with two cameras. I did this at the Procession of Saints, so if the card giving me the “Card Error” was kaput, I had some backup images on another camera.
2.  Don’t use a large capacity memory card. The more space you have, the more tempting it is to just use it until it fills up. If something happens to a full 16 Gig card, you’ve lost way more data than if you had lost a full 4 Gig card.
3.  As soon as you do a shoot, download or copy your primo images onto a hard drive or laptop. I do this with all the images I make of my children and my cemetery work.

So what happened in my recent “Card Error” situation?
I had a few things I wanted to try before downloading any software tools to use to retrieve the inaccessible JPEGs. Prayer, of course, was one of them. (I thought of comedian George Carlin's line: "Saint Anthony, PLEASE help me find my keys! God, PLEASE tell Saint Anthony to help me find my keys!")

I popped the SD card out of my Olympus Pen E-P1(a micro four-thirds format camera) and into my Canon G11 DPS camera to see if the Canon could read the card (I call digital point-and-shoots “DPS” cameras in my book, Digital Photography for the Impatient). Lo and behold, the Canon read the card! Saints preserve us! Next step was to connect the card to my laptop via a card reader and upload the images to my hard drive. After doing so, I reformatted the Kodak 4 Gig SD card and reused it in the Olympus. I have had no problem with it since.

The Resurrection
So my memory card was granted a new lease on life, much like how (the formerly abandoned) Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia has these days. Here is a photo (below)  retrieved from my funky memory card - it shows the trees that had been cut from around a crypt which was being crowded out by the invasive species. In fact, all the images of the saints and the cemetery you see in this article are from that naughty SD card. (By the way, you can check the progress of restoration efforts here on the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. Facebook Group Page.)

Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia

Lessons learned?
My paranoid, risk-averse tendencies regarding the safeguarding of my images will likely continue. Also, since this is the only “Card Error” I have ever experienced and this happened to me on the only Kodak brand memory card I have ever used, I won’t buy Kodak memory cards anymore.

References and Further Reading:
Rangefinder magazine website
Download the April 2015 issue of Rangefinder magazine on either of these site:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

“Monuments Men” Visit Mount Moriah Cemetery on Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2015 will be celebrated in an unusual way at Mount Moriah Cemetery (half of which is in Philadelphia, half in Yeadon, Pennsylvania). Two companies, Kreilick Conservation LLC (of Oreland, PA) and the George Young Company (of Swedesboro, New Jersey) will donate their services in an effort to upright, restore, and in some cases, reassemble some of the toppled U.S. military veterans’ grave markers and monuments. The day’s work will be overseen by Ken Smith of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. The non-profit, volunteer organization currently coordinates all such restoration efforts.
Friends' treasurer Ken Smith (L) with T. Scott Kreilick of Kreilick Conservation LLC

T. Scott Kreilick’s company specializes in laboratory and field analysis of materials, condition assessments, emergency response and stabilization, treatment, documentation, and maintenance of architecture, monuments, sculpture, and objects. Young’s company is a heavy hauling, rigging, and transport firm best known for moving the Liberty Bell to its current place on Independence Mall in Philadelphia. The George Young Company has been in business since 1869 and Mr. Young’s ancestors are buried on the Yeadon side of Mount Moriah.

Volunteer workers at the Young family monument

Following is the list of toppled monuments and headstones marking the graves of veterans (and others) that will be worked on (along with the cemetery section in which they reside):

1. Brevet Brig. Genl. John K. Murphy 1796-1876 Section 128

2. Brevet Brig. Genl. Edwin R. Biles 1828-1883 Section 30

3. Major John Lockhart 1833-1917 Section 201

4. Lieut. Wm. Rainey Ritchie 1877-1904 Section 200

5. Samuel Watson 1838-1885 Section E

6. Thomas T. Tasker, Jr. 1799-1892 Section 129

(Click link to read about U.S. military veterans buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery.)

Kreilick examining monument at Mount Moriah
Kreilick Conservation, LLC proposes to wash the individual granite components of each monument. Their restoration specialists will fill cracks by injection grouting and color-matched mortar fills. Some cracks or detached elements that require more extensive intervention may be pinned to facilitate the repair and stability. Individual monument components will be rigged and repositioned by George Young Company personnel. Kreilick Conservation personnel will provide conservation oversight. These services are being provided at no charge.

All services provided by Kreilick Conservation, LLC are conducted in accordance with the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works’ (AIC) Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice, and in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Restoration.

Masonic Circle of St. John, Mount Moriah
Kreilick and Young have partnered to do similar work in the past, volunteering their company’s resources (e.g. people and cranes) at other Philadelphia area cemeteries. Their goal is to accomplish what they can in a single day. In 2005, for instance, they re-set 36 headstones at Montgomery Cemetery in Norristown, PA, that had been pushed over by vandals. The two men team up for such projects on Memorial Day to focus attention on the need to maintain the region's historic cemeteries. Many are deteriorating.

The work at Mount Moriah is even more ambitious than their Montgomery Cemetery project. Most of the damage to the larger structures at Mount Moriah was probably caused by ground subsidence or overgrowth of trees, rather than vandalism. Each of the six monuments is considerably larger and heavier than a simple headstone. Uprighting and reassembling fallen granite obelisks and other memorials requires leveling the massive bases and using a crane to lift the pieces. Then, the pieces must be secured.

Kreilick meeting with Ken Smith (right) to plan the resetting of monuments

We applaud the efforts of Kreilick Conservation, LLC and the George Young Company in assisting the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. in this restoration work. Their planned endeavor to raise these monuments to the fallen is a fitting tribute to the deceased. Memorial Day, after all, is the day the United States has set aside to remember and honor those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. 'History,' as they say, is what we deem worth remembering.

References and Further Reading:

Friday, May 15, 2015

A New Era for Abandoned Jewish Cemetery

A newspaper columnist phoned me a couple months ago and asked, “Mr. Snyder, just how many abandoned cemeteries are there in the United States?” I felt like saying “Twelve thousand, eight hundred, and thirty-six.” Obviously, no one knows the answer to that question. What I actually said to him is that there are degrees of abandonment, sort of. A cemetery can be unmaintained, yet still have an owner. So it may appear to be abandoned, but in reality, it is not - it is simply unmaintained. How can this happen? Why is this even allowed to happen? There are no simple answers.

May 2015 image of lower portion of cemetery, cleared of weeds

The good news, however, is that yet another (in my fifteen-years’ experience as a cemetery traveler) abandoned cemetery has been reclaimed! The cemetery in question is the 18-acre (by some estimates) abandoned Jewish cemetery in the woods of Gladwyne, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia).

You may have read one or both of the blogs I’ve posted about this cemetery, known variously as Mount of Olives, Har Zetim, and Har Hasetim Cemetery. One blog documented my maiden voyage to this "Abandoned Jewish Cemetery in Gladwyne" (as it is also known), "Passover and Gladwyne's Abandoned Jewish Cemetery" (click link to go to that blog). A second blog documented a winter visit, "Graves Beneath the Snow." One of this cemetery's challenges is access - it is surrounded by very expensive private residential properties. In fact, you would never find it unless someone physically showed you where it is.

Brick crypt in Har Hasetim Cemetery

Any information available on the cemetery via the Internet is sparse, and in some cases inaccurate. I must confess that I added to the wealth of misinformation with the title of my first blog on the cemetery, "Passover and Gladwyne's Abandoned Jewish Cemetery." As I mentioned above, although a graveyard may appear unkempt, it does not necessarily mean it has been abandoned. Har Hasetim actually became the property of Gladwyne's Beth David Reformed Congregation in 1999. The most complete history of Har Hasetim has just been published in the Spring 2015 issue of "Chronicles," the Journal of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia (Vol. 32 - 1). The article, written by Philadelphia's LandHealth Institute member Rachael Griffith and Beth David Executive Director Jill Cooper, is entitled, A New Era for an Abandoned Jewish Cemetery (past issues are available at this link online). 

Back in 1999, the courts ruled that nearby Beth David Reformed Congregation be granted ownership of Har Hasetim, as the cemetery was facing a land development threat. Since its inception in 1895, Har Hasetim changed ownership a few times, and has faced a number of challenges. Since 1999, Beth David has kept the cemetery intact, and has reached the point where a master plan for the property will soon be adopted. The plan is being created with the help of LandHealth Institute. Details of the plan will be made public in the near future. The people directly involved with the care of the cemetery are members of Beth David's "Friends of Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery," a non-profit company (click here to go to the Friends website).

Wineberry thicket photographed in 2014

Keeping the sacred ground intact, maintained, and eventually restored is the main goal of the Friends group. I sat in on a recent meeting of the Friends and was taken by their knowledge and enthusiasm. The group has already had several cleanup days this spring, with a major goal of removing the wineberry (a relative of the raspberry) vines that tangle the grave sites at the lower end of the grounds. They've done wonderful work. Much of the thorny wineberry plants have been uprooted and removed. This allows access to individual graves. Another cleanup day is scheduled for this Sunday, May 17, 2015. Their volunteer efforts have certainly been evident. I visited Har Hasetim at the beginning of May, 2015, and was struck by how walkable the grounds are. Vines and weeds had been cut back and the walking trails are clear of woodland debris.  

Since forming in 2012, the
Friends of Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery has done much genealogical research (a list of a thousand names from the burial records appears on their new website). Working to publish these names as well as publishing the concise and accurate history of the cemetery (Spring 2015 "Chronicles" article) satisfies the curiosity of many and fills in some of the gaps of Jewish history in the Greater Philadelphia region. I, for one, did not know that Philadelphia had many Jewish burial associations, which owned plots at Har Hasetim for the purpose of providing "poor Jewish immigrants with a proper burial according to Jewish law" (1). This explains all of the pieces of rusting iron fencing throughout the property. Also shocking are the documented attempts by land developers over the years to build on the cemetery grounds. In 1912, when Har Hasetim had fallen on hard financial times, a Narberth, PA, contractor purchased a majority of the land at sheriff's sale and disinterred an estimated half of the bodies before he was stopped.

Har Hasetim Cemetery currently has clear paths on which to walk its grounds (you can see the tree branches in the photos above and below, which bound the walking path). This is just the beginning. The future of Har Hasetim, "its continued survival and success," as Griffith and Cooper put it in the Chronicles article (1), "is in the hands of those who care about it. Themes of survival emerge from many parts of the cemetery's story. [It's] existence has been tenuous since its establishment, but there have always been people who cared enough to save it from obliteration." The Friends, along with the LandHealth Institute, are developing a master plan to ensure this will continue.

So if you have wondered about this formerly abandoned cemetery, tucked in the woods, totally off the beaten path – as I had please consider stopping by for at least a tour this coming Sunday. The Friends group welcomes all volunteers and would be happy to show you around. If you’d like to help clear some weeds, the formal invitation from the Beth David Reform Congregation is reprinted below:

We Need Your Help!

Sunday, May 17th

Calling All Gardeners and Horticulturists

Tucked among the homes and estates of Gladwyne is a gem of an historic cemetery, as well as a hidden haven for nature, the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery. Beth David Reform Congregation of Gladwyne has been tasked to maintain it, and the Friends of the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery has plans to restore it. This Sunday, May 17th, we will be cleaning up the cemetery by removing the dead wood, overgrown weeds, and invasive plants. Meet at Beth David at 12:30pm, 1130 Vaughan Lane, Gladwyne PA 19035 (proceed to the very end of the lane). Wear appropriate clothing including stable footwear, jeans, and work or gardening gloves. Bring hand tools for weeding and clearing such as rakes and clippers. Additional tools will be available for those who need them.

Questions? contact Jill Cooper, Executive Director,, 610-896-7485 x104

1. Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia, Vol. 32 - 1, Spring 2015 (

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother’s Day and its Founder – Anna Jarvis

I recently photographed Anna Jarvis’ (1864 - 1948) grave marker in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Bala Cynwyd, PA (a suburb of Philadelphia). Jarvis is the mother, the founder, of Mother’s Day in the United States. I wondered if people left Hallmark cards and boxes of Whitman’s chocolates at her grave every Mothers’ Day (the second Sunday in May, here in the U.S.). Turns out that such a deed would be a great insult to the woman!  Keep reading to find out why.

Mother's Day, according to Wikipedia, is “a modern celebration honoring one's own mother, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. The American holiday of Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her own mother in Grafton, West Virginia."
Her campaign to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her own mother, Ann Jarvis, died. "Anna’s mission was to honor her mother by continuing work she started and to set aside a day to honor mothers…, 'the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.' Anna's mother, Ann Jarvis, was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War….” (ref).

Due to Jarvis’ campaigning, several states officially recognized Mother's Day, the first in 1910 being Jarvis’ home state of West Virginia. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation to institute Mother’s Day as a national holiday.

FTD gift assortment for Mother's Day (ref)

So, why would Jarvis be insulted to have FTD deliver flowers to her grave on Mother’s Day? Or for folks to leave a Whitman’s Sampler and a Mother’s Day card? Well, in 1923, just nine years after the first official Mother's Day, commercialization of the holiday became so rampant that Jarvis herself “became a major opponent of what the holiday had become and spent all her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration,” says Louisa Taylor in the 2008 Canwest News Service article "Mother's Day creator likely 'spinning in her grave'".

Jarvis' efforts did little good to thwart the commercialization as Mother's Day became (and continues to be) one of the most commercially successful of all U.S. holidays. Who profits? Greeting card companies, flower delivery companies, and candy companies, to name a few.

Hallmark greeting card (ref)

"A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment."
—Anna Jarvis, the Founder of Mother's Day (ref)

Whitman's (Russel Stover) chocolates (ref)

Jarvis memorial grave marker, West Laurel Hill
So how is it that Jarvis was born in West Virginia and is buried outside Philadelphia? Anna Jarvis never married and had no children – ironic, perhaps, for the founder of Mother’s Day. She spent her declining years in West Chester, PA, where her sister lived. The grave marker in West Laurel Hill Cemetery marks the family plot, in which Anna, along with her mother, sister, and brother are buried.

To give you an idea of the size of the Jarvis monument here at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, above is a photo of my friend Robert Reinhardt photographing it. I must thank Robert for pointing it out to me last year. We were at the cemetery photographing the grave stones when he brought it to my attention. As many times as I have been to West Laurel Hill, I never knew of the existence of the Jarvis grave marker. Note also the "Daughters of the American Revolution" plaque at its base.