Austin cemeteries are home to century old graves, but as the cemeteries age, they deteriorate. A local group hopes modern technology will help preserve some Austin history.
The Oakwood Cemetery in East Austin, is the resting place for some of the city’s most famous. It’s also Austin’s the oldest cemetery where nearly 11,000 people are buried.
“The city was established in 1839, and that same year this cemetery was established,” said Dale Flatt, with Save Austin’s Cemeteries. “This cemetery has Zilker from Zilker Park, The Bergstroms, The Scarboroughs, and The Driskill family is here.
Some of Austin’s most notable residents are laid to rest at The Oakwood Cemetery. The burial site has more than 11,000 graves, but not everyone buried there is resting in peace some are resting in pieces. Several tombstones dating back to the early 1800’s are deteriorating.
“The current state of the cemetery is there is very little funding to maintain the site,” said Flatt. “If I were to come to you and say hey listen your great great grandfather’s headstone is leaning over and it’s going to cost a couple thousand dollars to fix, you’re going to say I’m sorry I’ve got a house payment, I’ve got student loans.
But to solve the funding woes, Save Austin’s Cemeteries along with the Austin Parks Department are looking to attract visitors like Anna Smith.
“I love the cemetery and I come here all the time,” said Smith as she took a Saturday stroll through the graveyard.
Since major funding for all five city-owned cemeteries will likely come from bond elections years down the road; Save Austin’s Cemeteries is getting the ball rolling now, funding a new project during black history month to gain the public’s interest.
The group has set up kiosks above the tombstones of several famous Austinities to give visitors information about their lives. Visitors will also be able to use their smart phones to scan a QR code on the kiosk.
“So over here for example we have a QR code where the woman who was a jazz singer you can click on that and actually hear her sing,” said Flatt. “The other QR codes we add in the future may take you to a home someone lived.”
By March, the group plans to install nine more QR code kiosks.
As of now, the technology is only being used at the Oakwood Cemetery, but the group is working with the city to expand the project.
Next month the city council will vote on a master plan to begin the process of preserving all five of Austin’s city owned burial grounds.