- Unitarian Universalism Connection
175 years after William Ellery Channing’s death, his monument at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA stands in need of conservation. Channing’s monument remains an important tribute and needs to be conserved for future generations.
Why is Channing Important?
William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) was one of the most significant religious thinkers of the nineteenth century, and the spiritual leader of American Unitarians. In his sermons from the pulpit of the Federal Street Church in Boston he gave voice to the supreme dignity of human nature, an unfailing advocacy of the free mind, and a mystical sense of imminent divinity. His influence in the fields of religion, literature and social ethics extended far beyond sectarian boundaries. His spiritual vision of a world made one continues to be seen in his allegiance to “the great family of all souls.”
An Important Monument in Need of Care
The monument to the Rev. William Ellery Channing was designed by painter and poet Washington Allston, Channing’s brother-in-law. Allston created a simplified Neoclassical design for the memorial, which was carved by local stone carver Alpheus Cary.
Today, the monument is stained from pollutants and biological growth. Lichen and green algae obscure the inscription and detract from the once-polished white marble, and the surfaces are covered with a thin network of cracks. Conservation treatment will stabilize the stone, preserve the sculptural elements and inscription, and ensure the long-term survival of this important Unitarian memorial.
In the fall of 2015 the Channing monument was inspected and assessed by conservators from Daedalus, Inc. Proposed conservation treatment will include gentle washing with soft brushes to reduce the soiling, filling cracks and joints. Washing, pointing, and repair will be performed by trained and experienced conservators. After treatment, the Channing monument will be monitored regularly by Mount Auburn’s preservation staff. Although stopping the degradation of stone entirely is not possible, Cemetery staff and professional conservators are confident in their ability to stabilize the stone and extend the life of the historic monument.
Although Mount Auburn Cemetery has an endowment that provides operating funds for general maintenance of its grounds, some individual lots, and buildings, this restricted endowment support was not intended and is not available to cover additional costs of extraordinarily demanding and critical conservation projects. This remains one of the Cemetery’s biggest challenges in caring for its monument collections.
It is estimated that $15,000 will be needed to conserve the Channing monument. The Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery (a 501c3 organization) is seeking to fund at least half of the project costs in donations. As Unitarian Universalists, we are seeking to raise at least $7,500 in donations to enable this conservation to happen. We are hoping to raise $5000.00 through Faithify and additional funds through gifts by individual and congregational donors.