Arkansas PBS > Engage > Pressroom > ‘Silent Storytellers’ to premiere on AETN March 11 Documentary explores history, culture, importance of preserving Arkansas’s cemeteries

‘Silent Storytellers’ to premiere on AETN March 11 Documentary explores history, culture, importance of preserving Arkansas’s cemeteries

Posted 01 Mar 2010

Like many others, I used to drive by cemeteries and not give them a second thought, but by becoming aware of some the people who are passionate about preserving cemeteries and listening to their stories, I have had a true awakening, Hop Litzwire, who co-produced, directed, edited and filmed the documentary, said. I now realize that without an appreciation of our cemeteries, we disconnect ourselves, historically and culturally, from our communities and ultimately from our society as a whole.

Filmed over two years and co-produced by AETNs Casey Sanders, Silent Storytellers explores the cultural, artistic and personal stories cemeteries provide to the surrounding communities. Guided by author and cemetery researcher Abby Burnett, Silent Storytellers visits cemeteries in Boone, Crawford, Franklin, Hempstead, Johnson, Lawrence, Newton, Pulaski, Searcy and Sevier counties and features tombstones with tales of murder, family heirlooms and folk-art inspired carvings.

The number one thing that interests me in cemeteries is the sense that youre walking into an area filled with stories if you can just extract them, Burnett said.

Silent Storytellers also features information about the best techniques for preserving, repairing and maintaining tombstones, presented by Elizabeth Norton of Norton Fine Arts Conservation.

I think people would be surprised at what can be done, Norton said. Weve had stones that may be in a dozen pieces.

You have to do a lot of pinning and a lot of fill, but when you put it back together its a really beautiful thing to see the monument that was made for this person become whole again.

Also featured in the documentary are interviews with: Mica Balcom, Stone Preservation Specialist, Norton Fine Arts Conservation; Dr. Juliet Morrow, Arkansas State University Jonesboro, and Dr. Jamie C. Brandon, Southern Arkansas University, Station Archeologists, Arkansas Archeological Survey; Dr. Jami Lockhart, University of Arkansas, Archeogeophysical Research, Arkansas Archeological Survey; Fayth Hill Washington, Scott Cemetery Preservationist; Norman Johnson and Phyllis Rogers, Paraloma Cemetery Association Volunteer; Randy Smith, liaison for Fairview Cemetery; and Tamela Tenpenny-Lewis and Carla Coleman, Preservation of African American Cemeteries.

In my 20 years as executive producer at AETN, I have no hesitation in saying that Silent Storytellers is one of the most unique, creative and beautiful films weve ever produced, AETN Director of Production Carole Adornetto said.

Visit for behind-the-scenes clips, additional interviews and downloadable information about tombstone cleaning.

Silent Storytellers will repeat on AETN Saturday, March 13, at 7:30 a.m. and Sunday, March 14, at noon, and on AETN-2 Sunday, March 21, at 6:30 a.m.

Funding for Silent Storytellers is provided by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, a division of the Arkansas Department of Heritage.

The Arkansas Educational Television Network ( provides lifelong learning opportunities, improves and enhances Arkansans lives and celebrates the unique culture of Arkansas through its programming and services. AETNs transmitters and numerous cable system connections give it statewide reach.