CHARLESTON’S MAGNOLIA UMBRA CEMETERY DISTRICT: A NECROGEOGRAPHIC HISTORY
The purpose of this paper is to parse the deeper historical meanings of the establishment and expansions within the Magnolia Umbra Cemetery District (MUCD), a collection of 26 different, yet contiguous, cemeteries in Charleston, South Carolina founded by a diverse cross-section of the city's nineteenth century population, by utilizing the framework of necrogeography. This methodology hinges on the notion that one can derive useful analysis of the living by analyzing the landscapes of the dead. Cemeteries, in this lens, are not constructions of the dead but of the living, and therefore the choices of cemetery location, style, and monumentation are all physical expressions of the contemporary feelings and cultural mores of the living overlaid onto a space that contains the dead. The concept of the necrogeography within the MUCD is expanded further in this paper by separating the methodology into two sub-frameworks: inter-cemetery and intra-cemetery necrogeography. In the latter framework, typologically similar cemeteries (those of Jewish Charlestonians, Colored Burial Societies, etc.) are examined for features within them which indicate conformity or discontinuity with the broader social and cultural trends of the contemporaneous living members of that group. In the former, cultural trends and attitudes are parsed from the geographic and spatial relationships between the cemeteries as discrete wholes, rather than a collection of markers and stones.