Help ASOR Survey Holt Cemetery in New Orleans

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Posted by Michael Homan
On Wednesday, November 18th, from 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM, members of the American Schools of Oriental Research will be volunteering at Holt Cemetery in Mid-City New Orleans.

Holt Cemetery

Graves at Holt Cemetery on a rainy day in Mid-City New Orleans.

We will be working with Save Our Cemeteries to record the current condition of Holt Cemetery. This includes surveying individual graves and their markers, along with taking photos in order to establish a record of the current state of the cemetery. The data we collect will then be compared to photos taken prior to the 2005 levee failures and can serve for future restoration work.

Brick Marker

R.I.P. A.B. Hyman


Unlike other cemeteries in New Orleans where the dead are housed in above ground vaults, the remains of the deceased at Holt Cemetery are buried below ground. The graves are often marked with simple markers, such as writing on bricks or pieces of wood.

This “potter’s field” cemetery was established in 1879 as a place of interment for the city’s impoverished, and it is named after Dr. Joseph Holt, who was a member of the New Orleans board of health.

Buddy Bolden Grave Marker

Buddy Bolden Grave Marker

Perhaps the biggest mystery surrounding Holt Cemetery involves the location of it’s most famous burial: jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden, credited by many as the individual most responsible for this great American invention. Bolden was buried in plot C-623, though records of the location of C-623 have long been lost.

Thus far 14 members of ASOR have signed up, and if you are interested in joining us please email Kelley Bazydlo. (Note: you do not need to be a member of ASOR to volunteer).

You can see more photographs of Holt Cemetery taken today in this Flickr set. Also, if your hotel is already booked for check in on November 18th, ASOR members who are interested in volunteering are more than welcome to stay at my house the night of November 17th. I’m located within walking distance from Holt Cemetery and the street car line which will take you to the Astor Crowne hotel in plenty of time for the opening session. Write to me here.

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