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Everybody's Going to be There
The American Rural Cemetery Movement

On view through May 2024 - December 2025

New to the John L. Wehle Gallery in May of 2024 is Everybody’s Going to be There: The American Rural Cemetery Movement. The concept of a rural cemetery challenges the notion of burial spaces as being gloomy or frightening places. Rather, the rural cemetery acts as a social center with a living ecosystem – a place for scenic respite.

Admission to the John L. Wehle Gallery is included with general Museum admission. 


This exhibit is sponsored by: 


and Anonymous

The Rural Cemetery Movement in America

This new exhibit will explore how 19th-century Americans managed public health concerns, developed a new appreciation for green space and wildlife, and ensured their memorialization in a newly established public space: the rural cemetery. With the American population growing dramatically in the early 19th century, urban graveyards were quickly becoming overcrowded and unhygienic spaces, trapped between city structures with no place to expand. Waves of cholera threatened the living, underscoring an immediate need for an alternative to city burials. City expansion and an emerging appreciation for green spaces reshaped land use for burial grounds and transformed surrounding terrains. As the desire to be interred in these scenic landscapes grew, grave markers, tombstones, and monuments emerged as a high art form – a product of means, social connections, and endeavors to be memorialized. Rural cemeteries quickly became social centers for the living, and were emulated across America, inspiring urban planning and city design. Rural cemeteries are not macabre or gloomy places to be visited only when necessary. American rural cemeteries are open-air museums, acting as reliquaries of genealogical information, evocative iconography, landscape and horticultural design, and sanctuaries for wildlife.    

Mourning, Funerary Practice, and more

Everybody’s Going to be There! presents a wide variety of fine wildlife art, maps, memorial art, natural animal and geological specimens, mourning jewelry and stationery, and cemetery tourism ephemera of the 19th century.

Objects on display in the exhibit have been lent by a number of regional museums, historical societies, and individuals, including Anonymous, Big Springs Museum, Ryan Braun, Tammy Canfield, The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery, Ontario County Historical Society, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Bill & Mykel Whitney, and Ruthann Williams.

Talks and Programs

Antiques & Artisans Show Preview Party: Curator-Hosted Debut of new exhibit, “Everybody’s Going to be There: The American Rural Cemetery Movement” 
Friday, May 10, 7 p.m. in the Gallery lobby
(Additional fee applies to attend Antiques Preview Party)

Meet the “Gravestone Guy” talk with Dave Bloom 
Saturday, May 18, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the Gallery Lobby 

Rochester Genealogical Society – Find a Grave Talk with Eric Vaugh 
Saturday, May 25 – 11:30 a.m. in the Gallery Lobby

Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery Talk with Dennis Carr 
Saturday, June 29, 2 p.m. in Gallery Lobby

Forrest- Lawn Cemetery Talk with Amizetta Haj
Saturday, July 6, 1 – 2 p.m.