Technology helping cemeteries spring to life

Tombstones haven’t advanced much since someone figured out how to carve granite with a sharp pointy thing.

These kids have been enjoying Oakland since 1913.

These kids, who've been enjoying Oakland since 1913, use the technology of their day to keep dry.

But technology has a way of eventually improving — or destroying — everything.

QR codes, those black and white boxes of computerized gibberish on almost everything that can be scanned with smartphones, are now popping up in cemeteries.

Scanning a code takes taphophiles to a website that details the life and times of the dearly departed. The trend may be catching on, according to a story in U.S.A. Today.

Edouard Garneau, 78, of Washington, died last year. But today, if you visit his grave near Seattle, you can scan a code and read about his life and view a photo gallery of his exploits.

Garneau’s wife of 53 years said “I think it’s a neat deal. It kind of keeps people alive a little longer, down through the generations.”

Will the high-tech trend worm its way to Atlanta? I gave Oakland Cemetery, home of Margaret Mitchell, Bobby Jones and countless other celebrated Georgians, a call.

David Moore, executive director of the Oakland Foundation, said he’s aware of QR codes and other technological doodads popping up in cemeteries. This year, Oakland added a service that gives cellphone users a tour of the African-American section of the historic graveyard.

Other ideas, such as an iPhone app or creating holograms of famed Oakland denizens, have been floated.

“Technology has given us ways to share our story with a wider audience,” said Moore, noting that more than 30,000 folks a year visit Oakland’s park-like environs. “But you can’t beat visiting the place and witnessing it first-hand.”

He’s right. There’s something about ancient  moss-covered oaks, which gave the cemetery its name, that lend weight to the lives of the people interred there.

Perhaps it’s just as well there’s not a computer code on everything. If tombstones advanced as rapidly as men’s shaving technology, Oakland might look too much like the bridge of the starship Enterprise to enjoy a cool walk in the shade of Atlanta history.

16 comments Add your comment

Haley Reinhart

July 25th, 2011
11:37 am

Mark of the beast.


July 25th, 2011
11:55 am

Can we expect the truth from these, or just the government approved version? One can only imagine what their PC version of a Confederate cemetary might “read” like.


July 25th, 2011
11:56 am

Haley Reinhart – The mark of the beast will be applied to the living. 666? We have an APP for that.


July 25th, 2011
12:34 pm

Done tastefully & discreetly, what a wonderful history tool! I love to visit Oakland not just for the beauty, but the history as well. It’s an amazing story of the people who lived and built the city, and how their influences reached the suburbs of today!


July 25th, 2011
1:33 pm

Kudos LitlPoot!


July 25th, 2011
1:41 pm


July 25th, 2011
2:11 pm

What is with these silly conspiracy theories? You can make your own QR codes right now online. Just google “QR code generator.” They aren’t some massive conspiracy. They’re just 2D bar codes. You use a scanner like Red Laser, and are either taken to text or to a URL say a Facebook memorial page or a YouTube memorial video.

You already see these in advertisements. Hopefully museums transfer to these instead of voicemail systems where you call a number, enter a code, and hear a summary. That eats minutes. Use a QR code, and you can be taken to an audio file that gets transferred over your 3G connection.

This stuff is really a big leap forward, so I’m not surprised that the people of Georgia are paranoid about “the beast” and government conspiracies.


July 25th, 2011
3:08 pm

Hey Is1z28chris, if anything has anything to do with the government, we should be leery!


July 25th, 2011
3:31 pm

Paranoid much? Even on gov’t-owned cemeteries, if you don’t want to “believe” what you see, then open up a history book and verify for yourself. Geez.


July 25th, 2011
5:10 pm

I am not concerned with government conspiracies. But, would this be a tool for identity theft?


July 25th, 2011
11:19 pm

OldTech…. How much good would it do anyone to steal the identity of a deceased person? This on the front end sounds like a really neat tool to give others a glimpse into someones life after they are gone. Are you really that scared of technology?


July 26th, 2011
12:51 am

I don’t see anything wrong with it. If you don’t like it, don’t use it.


July 26th, 2011
1:05 am

Problem is, tombstones last for centuries, but technology is fleeting. The codes that are used today may be useless tomorrow, as well as the servers where the information is stored and received. Remember cassette tapes and 8-track tapes? Even VHS tapes and CDs are hardly used anymore. An obsolete scanning code with no relevance to the deceased will be like a defunct bumper sticker on a car. Good idea, but not practical.

Jack Chrisman

July 26th, 2011
5:36 am

People travel all over to find their lost love ones buried all over the country. This would help people locate some of them. The crooks have been going to the grave sites for years taking names on the stones and becoming that person. So that is out. Just think of the help it would be to know some of the history of the person in the grave. Once you are gone no one can speak for you ever again. I wish I could walk up to my parents stone here in Lebanon Ohio and push a button and hear them tell me about their youth and life.


July 27th, 2011
5:42 pm

“I gave Oakland Cemetery, home of Margaret Mitchell, Bobby Jones and countless other celebrated Georgians…”

The big technology breakthrough will be when you can press an intercom button on the headstone and speak directly with the decedent. I would love the opportunity to ask Bobby Jones a question about my golf swing.


August 11th, 2011
10:16 pm

Wish all cemeteries were respected and well taken care of. The way a society treats it’s cemeteries says a lot about the people in the surrounding community…..death is the great equalizer of us all….