Technology in Cemeteries?

Can QR Codes be used in cemeteries? Should they?

Symbolism in Cemeteries

Close your eyes and imagine a cemetery. The first thing that comes to mind is probably the headstones. What about technology — do you see it anywhere? Probably not. Death has a particular aura; technology isn’t usually part of it.

I recently took a fascinating webinar about “Symbolism in Local Cemeteries.” Headstones often have symbols, and some are relatively common — crosses, books, and flowers — for example. But what about symbols that use technology? We briefly discussed the possibility of using QR Codes — a different type of symbol. While we weren’t able to review specific examples or ways to use them, but it got me thinking.

Technology and QR Codes

Will technology ever be evident in cemeteries? I think it will. QR Codes, or “Quick Response Codes,” are a type of barcode that you scan with your smartphone. Cemeteries could add these on or near individual headstones. It’s a fascinating idea. And it’s not as far-fetched as it might seem. One of the local cemeteries in town recently put together a walking tour accessible with a QR Code.

— Entrance Sign —

For example, a cemetery might add a QR Code to its entrance sign. Scan the code with your smartphone, and you will have a cemetery map for a walking tour. Search for a topic and review the results — early settler, veteran, religious, famous, oldest, newest — whatever you want to see. Looking for a specific grave? Type in the name, choose it from the list, and let the phone’s GPS show you how to get there. Is it a historic cemetery? Get the cemetery’s history in the palm of your hand.

— Headstones —

Or what if there was a QR Code on or near the headstone? While at someone’s gravesite, read a biography, personal stories, or even their obituary. Perhaps you’re more interested in visuals — view a photo album or watch a video they recorded while still alive. Into genealogy? Study their family tree, and find other family members buried nearby. Have something to say? You could leave comments or add information to help tell their story, sign the virtual guestbook, or leave private notes. Maybe the whole system is linked to Find-A-Grave,, or even social media — if it was possible to do it tastefully.

— Resources, Records, Reminders, & Reunions —

The QR Codes could also help with forensics, medical, or census records. What about local history or civic matters? It could also show statistics — 40% of the people buried here were of Irish descent. Or, it could let you know when the flowers you left have wilted and remind you to bring fresh ones on the anniversary. Maybe it allows your relatives to participate in a Zoom Meeting or ‎FaceTime event, so you can bring everyone together and remember a loved one.

Visiting a cemetery could be an interactive experience, even an immersive one. It doesn’t need to be macabre, awkward, or a painful event with tear-stained eyes. Cemeteries could be a way to connect with someone and bring their story back to life.

Rest in Peace

Of course, there is the potential (and certainly valid) argument of letting ones “Rest in Peace.” Perhaps the departed don’t want us visiting for too long or using technology to pry into their lives. Maybe cemeteries should be kept as quiet places for visitation and reflection instead of technology hubs or Wi-Fi hotspots.

I recently saw a cemetery sign that said, “No Gaming Allowed.” It referred to geocaching, specifically the Pokémon Go game craze popular a few years ago. You may remember people walking with their cell phones (often in the dark, it seemed) frantically playing the augmented reality game. Inevitably, some players ended up in odd places, including cemeteries. Perhaps there is a reason why cemeteries are steeped in hushed traditions. The idea of QR Codes in cemeteries might be in poor taste or violate privacy concerns. And do we really need technology present in every aspect of our lives?

Open-air Museums

One of my favorite local writers, Tui Snider, believes that “historic cemeteries are open-air museums.” She’s onto something there, and not just about historical ones. Cemeteries could be a way to learn from the past. And the way to do it may be through the smartphone in your pocket. Integrating technology in a tasteful, respectful, helpful, educational, and even fun way is possible. Let’s take the grim finality out of death and look at it from another perspective. Wouldn’t you want your loved ones to visit your grave and keep your memory alive?

Symbols of the Future

The next time you visit a cemetery, look for symbols on the headstones. And don’t be surprised if one of the symbols is a QR Code waiting for your smartphone to scan it. It might be the future and a way to bring cemeteries into the 21st century.

Blog post by Jason S. Sullivan, 07-16-21 (updated 03-13-23)

2 thoughts on “Technology in Cemeteries?

  1. I think QR coding on local headstones would be good especially if you could then link the FindAGrave app as well with additional links to the Ancestry, etc.. For those of us that “look for dead people”, it would help link the people together to recapture the history..


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