Have you or your society considered using blogs as part of a cemetery inventory project? The bloggers of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits have demonstrated how a blog adds much more to the story of a cemetery than just a photo and transcription of the grave marker. They’ve added histories of the cemetery itself, follow-on research about the people buried there and information about the design and symbols used on the markers. Best of all, blogs are very search-friendly and attract researchers who often leave comments that provide even more information about the people buried there.
Doesn’t that sound a lot more interesting than a data table of bare bones text?
While this could be done on just about any blog platform, the tumblr platform combines free blogs, multiple author support and mobile apps into an amazingly easy platform that will not only provide a good home for the stories of your cemeteries, but also impressive tools to post content directly from the cemetery.
The tumblr blog platform can be a great support system for individuals and societies doing on-site cemetery inventories. With a free tumblr blog and companion mobile app [iOS, Android & Windows Phone – free], you can turn loose an army (okay, a platoon) of volunteers who can photograph, document details and post right from their phones.
Tumblr supports multiple contributors (called members) on all secondary tumblrs. [NOTE: A user’s first blog is the primary blog and only that user can post to it.] If you’re inventorying multiple cemeteries, it would probably be best to create a separate tumblr for each. The site administrator invites each volunteer as a member of that cemetery’s blog. All it takes is to go to the Member screen and enter the email address for a volunteer, then click the Invite button. That volunteer will receive an email with instructions to join the blog – and register an account on tumblr if he doesn’t already have one. The volunteer will be able to publish posts on the blog, but can’t perform any of the blog management functions. Once the volunteer has joined the blog, he installs the appropriate app on his smartphone and uses that login to connect to the blog through his device.
Now it’s time to do some field work.
At the cemetery, capturing details about each grave is as simple as creating a photo post, taking one (or more) photos of the grave/marker, adding whatever text information is required, then publishing the post. At this stage of the process, content is more important than style. You may want to have a volunteer sitting at home on a desktop computer reviewing the posts as they are published. This volunteer – who has a full-size screen and a standard keyboard – can review the photographs, clean up any typos and call field workers when a photo needs to be retaken or there’s a question about the post.
Although tumblr doesn’t have the organizational features found in more sophisticated blog platforms, a good system of tags can make it easier to access any of your posts. Tags can be added at any time – as part of the original posting from the field and/or during any of the reviews or updates performed by your staff. The key is to build a taxonomy (standard) for the tags you’ll use to define your posts. Surname is one obvious tag, but you might want to include tags for marker styles or to define a mausoleum. There’s no limit to the number of tags you can use, but consistency is important.
Individual posts can be edited at any time to add additional information. If you want to research individuals, you can add the information you’ve discovered to the existing post or create a new one. Some creative tagging on your part will allow visitors to pull together all the posts associated with a particular surname or topic by just clicking a displayed tag.
In the example shown below, you’re looking at an individual post in the Huguenot Cemetery blog. Notice the tags in the left column. A visitor could click any of those tags and tumblr displays all posts containing that tag. Now look at the menu across the top of the page. Tumblr supports pages although they are a bit clunky to create. This blog uses the page feature to provide the history of this cemetery. Additional pages could be created to list research resources or whatever information you want to provide.
Using a blog to inventory a cemetery can add value to your society archives. Using a blog platform such as tumblr can help simplify the process. Want to learn more about tumblr? The Unofficial, Beginners Guide to Tumblr is a good place to start.