PE&RS January 2015 - page 6

January 2015
Increasingly, cultural institutions are turning to geospatial
technologies to manage resources, enhance visitor experience,
and provide “virtual tourism”, among other uses (Majó
et al.
2004; Brown, 2006; Scott, 2006). For many local cultural or
historical sites, such a turn has been difficult because these
types of institutions often lack the funding and/or technical
knowledge to leverage geospatial technologies. As part of
our commitment to community service, members of the
ASPRS Student Chapter at the University of Georgia (UGA)
volunteered assistance to a local group, the Friends of Oconee
Hill Cemetery (OHC).
The Friends of OHC was established in 1999 to encourage
community attention and involvement in the restoration and
preservation of OHC. Seeking funding to assure that the
gravesites of all veterans receive regular maintenance, the
Friends needed to determine how many veterans’ gravesites
required care and where these gravesites were located. Such
needs were the result of several factors. First, regular care of
lots was originally the responsibility of the lot owner. Since
1915, lot care by the cemetery Sexton (caretaker) could be
purchased separately. It was only since 1946 that perpetual
lot care by the cemetery Sexton has been included in the lot
purchase. The Sexton does provide nominal care for all lots
each winter, yet lacks the resources to do so on a regular
basis during the long summer growing season. Second, each
cemetery lot accommodates several internments. Maps of the
lots exist, but not internments within a lot. Lastly, original
records prior to 1896 were lost in a fire and could only be
partially reconstructed through other sources including
direct knowledge, tombstone inscriptions, and newspaper
obituaries (Marshall, 1971; Marshall, 2009).
The ASPRS Student Chapter at UGA was initially
approached by the Friends of OHC tomap veterans’ gravesites.
We soon realized that other geospatial technologies could
be used to assist in preserving the cemetery, easily locate
specific gravesites by name, and help the public navigate
to and appreciate the many areas of historical significance
within the cemetery. This local collaboration also provided
students with an opportunity for community outreach and an
introduction to several open-source geospatial software tools.
Established in 1856, OHC is one of the oldest public
cemeteries in Athens, Georgia, USA (Figure 1). The Old
section of the cemetery follows the “rural” (also referred to as
garden or Victorian) cemetery design first introduced in the
USA in 1831 with the founding of Mount Auburn Cemetery
in Massachusetts (French, 1974). As the various names
suggest, this type of cemetery idealized park-like design
with magnificent trees, impressive monuments, decorative
ironwork, and statuaries (Figure 2). In 1900, the cemetery
expanded. The design of the New section reflected changing
aesthetics and the realities of maintaining garden type
cemeteries. Monuments in the New section are more uniform
and large trees less common. Together, both the Old and
New sections of OHC reveal the changing nature of societal
attitudes to burials.
Regardless of their dissimilar designs, both the Old andNew
sections of OHC are meaningful in terms of local and national
history. OHC serves as the final resting place for Athenians
from all walks of life, ranging from wealthy business owners
to paupers. Some non-Athenians are also buried at OHC,
including a group of Travelers (aka, Roaders or American
gypsies). Nationally well-known or historically significant
persons interred at OHC include Wilson Lumpkin, state
and federal politician and supervisor of the forced march of
Cherokee Indians on the Trail of Tears, prominent generals
in the Confederate States Army including T.R.R. Cobb, Dr.
Crawford Long who first adopted anesthesia for surgery,
aviation pioneer Ben Epps, portrait miniature artist Lucy
May Stanton, Dean Rusk who served as the US Secretary of
State from 1961 to 1969, and musician Ricky Wilson of the
iconic band the B52s.
Because OHC is both an historic and an active cemetery, it
has the distinction of being the final resting place of veterans
from every war or conflict in which the USA has participated.
Veterans involved in the country’s early conflicts died before
the cemetery’s founding in 1856; their remains are now
interred at OHC after being moved from their initial burial
locations. Until the mid-1800s, burials were commonly made
on family land, land associated with churches, or in other
public burial grounds, but none of these guaranteed that
gravesites would remain undisturbed (Sloane, 1995). As
public cemeteries opened, which promised gravesites would
be undisturbed, existing burials on family/private land were
frequently moved. The regular maintenance of the gravesites
was the responsibility of the living family members; only in
the mid twentieth century did the responsibility of regular
maintenance, shift to the cemetery. However, in an historic
cemetery, such as OHC, many lots are not in perpetual care,
including those of veterans.
“We soon realized that other geospatial
technologies could be used to assist in
preserving the cemetery, easily locate
specific gravesites by name, and help the
public navigate to and appreciate the many
areas of historical significance within the
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