QR Codes in Cemeteries

I’m currently working on Post 2 on the vacant lot on Main Street. I’m doing some stuff on Google Earth for it, so get ready, and expect it in the next few days.

In the meantime, I stumbled upon this article today on the MSN front page, and given the title “Interactive tombstones give the dead new life online” I just HAD to click on it. So here is the link so you can read it as well: http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/futureoftech/interactive-tombstones-give-dead-new-life-online-980536.

What are your thoughts? Do you see this technology catching on? Would you use a QR code in this setting?

This is not the first article I’ve seen on integrating QR codes into cemeteries, nor is it the first time I’m discussing this topic (although it is in this format).  When I do think about this topic there are numerous thoughts that run through my mind. I can see the benefit of QR codes in active cemeteries with the recently deceased, provide the technological link to those who knew them.

What about in historical cemeteries where the people have been gone for much longer? There are possibilities: A Facebook Page (not a profile as it is technically against Facebook rules) that provides further information about a person. I can see how it would work well for some of the more well known deceased or for those who left behind an extensive record with photographs or diaries that are accessible. Another is stops on a walking tour for a larger cemetery.

QR codes do pose problems though. First, is that not everyone has access to a QR reader, so automatically the audience is limited. Second, is network coverage. There are places where this technology just won’t work. Third, and most importantly, is are there going to be enough of an audience to make the time and cost of creating (and maintaining) the virtual piece worth investing? Museums confront these issues already with mixed results, and those are sometimes places with dedicated staff to work on this technology and similar initiatives.

I would love to have a dialogue on this, so what do you think?

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12 Responses to QR Codes in Cemeteries

  1. Isaac Kremer says:

    This is a very interesting article. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I manage a family cemetery on Long Island dating back to 1672. One question I have is whether folks would attach QR codes to headstones, or if they would be mounted on some freestanding post. In either case I would be concerned what effect this has on the historical integrity of the cemetery (i.e. does this modern intervention make the cemetery look and feel less historic?). Where QR codes might work best is by entrances where they take folks to an app that helps to navigate the cemetery, highlight significant burial sites, etc.

    • Thank you for stopping by!

      You present very good ideas. I too wondered how one would go about attaching a QR code to an existing historical stone, especially since the article mentioned it being carved into the stone or brass plaque directly. I would never advocate for something to be attached to an historical stone, too many concerns with condition and how the adhesive might affect the structural integrity of the stone. I would hate to see QR codes in sticker form. A free standing post (I’m thinking no bigger than the star posts that hold American flags) would be better for the stones’ conditions. But that brings up the other issue you mentioned of does it make the cemetery look less historic? It could, but maybe there could be a tasteful way to do it, maybe they could be brass instead of their traditional black and white. A sign at the entrance to a cemetery introducing their presence and purpose would definitely be needed. Maybe they could be worked into an event of some type and removed later?

      I love your idea of having a code at the cemetery’s entrance linking to a navigation app or something similar. As someone who has gotten lost wandering a large cemetery looking for that one stone I had to see, I know I’d use it!

  2. ljellis2000 says:


    A link above to the “memorymedallion” website which I am sure you are familiar with. You’re right about justifying the costs and benefit of such technology on gravestones at inactive and abandoned cemeteries where there is so much rampant vandalism, ill effects of weather and mother nature, time, neglect, and so on.

    Altogether, given how many deceased relatives and ancestors an average person has who may have an interest in purusing utilizing this technology, I feel they most probably aren’t going to be able to afford to purchase these medallions and/or “QR” codes (for lack of a better term) for all of their departed family members.

    I feel that as far as the internet is concerned, presently, “Find A Grave” offers the best of what is currently being offered for sharing information about the final destination of the deceased because they include non-burial memorials as well. Some other sites, do not. I may be old fashioned but I also feel writing down your family history and sharing it not only among your family, but also by donating the history of your family to the local library where they lived, and creating on-line memorials which hopefully will last a long time in the public presence, will document the lives of the deceased without a tremendous cost to the contributor or the interested reader.

    • I am familiar with Memory Medallion, and although I’ve never seen them in practice, I am intrigued by them. I have to say, I am impressed by how much the company is willing to store for that price, 999 photos plus unlimited text and links? Wow. Honestly though, I have to agree, I don’t know how many people would be willing to pay for their entire family to get one of these. Plus the further back you go, the more you need to worry about the stone’s condition in the application of one of these medallions.

      I too find it extremely important to share one’s family history. Then again I’m also the family genealogist. I’ve put up what I can on Ancestry and have connected to distant family members through doing so.

      I do enjoy Find A Grave, but content is definitely hit or miss as it is up to the dedicated to upload photos and add information, as it would be for whoever created the content linked to by a QR code. It is great to have and I have definitely learned new information from it in my own family research.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • ljellis2000 says:

        My pleasure to stop by. I enjoy Ancestry.com, Rootsweb, and FamlySearch as well some others. Yes, human error, and the lack of citing sources contribute to the perpetuation of errors, but it is through sharing we learn and can correct the mistakes when we find them. I’ve been working on my Limes, McKee, Doster, Miller (Cecil County, MD to Logan County, Ohio), Duvall, and Lombard genealogy for a number of years. Someone once said that we’ll never live long enough to find all of our ancestors. That just might be true! But, we try. I enjoy your blog very much!

      • Thank you for the compliment, I have your blog on my reader and visit it regularly. I agree with sharing our knowledge to expand that of others and to correct mistakes. On Ancestry.com I was having quite a hard time finding family members in the 1940 Census, only to discover the last name had been interpreted as Daffy when it should have been Duffy. There are others, but I thought that one was funny. We do try, and that definitely counts.

  3. Loren Rhoads says:

    I think QR codes on gravestones are a great idea. As much as I love the landscaping and iconography of graveyards, it’s the stories enclosed in them that fascinate me the most. I would love there to be an easy way to learn those stories. I hope columbarium and mausoleum spaces adopt them as wel.

    • I agree. There are just so many stories to tell! Beyond just the people buried at a particular cemetery, you can tell stories about the iconography and the stone carvers as well. Really, the possibilities are quite numerous. Would you go display a QR code on a stone or would you have a stake in front of the stone with the code on it?

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • Loren Rhoads says:

        I lean toward affixing the codes to the stones. It seems as if metal thieves are stealing things from graveyards all over the world, so I feel like the stakes might not be safe or last long in place.

      • I hadn’t really thought about the metal thieves, but you are definitely right on with that. The preservationist side of me worries about affixing codes directly onto existing stones especially the older ones which might have integrity issues and wouldn’t mix well with adhesive materials. Maybe a durable plastic stake that wouldn’t look tacky? I too wonder about the ease of just moving the QR Code stake to a different stone; I wrote in a reply to Isaac that perhaps stakes would best be used as part of a special event or tour, that way they could be collected at the end of the day, but then that only allows those attending access to those stories we all want. Catch 22?

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