This piece by Sarah Bakewell for the Guardian is particularly moving: The police force of Croydon in the U.K. has recovered a haul of around 450 memorial plaques that were stolen from cemeteries, broken into fragments and sold to a scrap metal yard. They are now painstakingly reassembling the memorials as a giant jigsaw on the floor. A small team of police and support officers works through the scraps, a bucketful at a time, finding a part of a name here, an “In loving memory” there, and slotting each one into place.
It is not that easy to state the value of public plaques, memorials or art, so strangely do they combine social and historical meaning, beauty of form and brute material substance. […] In fact, the loss can hardly be quantified, for works of art – and memorials – are magnificently useless and belong more to a gift economy than a trading one. Memorials constitute an act of generosity towards the past (those we commemorate) and the future (those visitors who will one day seek out a plaque or grave, or wander past it and be enlightened, intrigued or moved).
Read more here.