By James Keeler, Associate Strategy Director
There is a time honoured tradition followed by most of the western world when someone passes away. We mourn their passing; hold a funeral to say good-bye and celebrate their life; and our loved one is then buried or cremated.
More often than not the deceased’s life is commemorated on a headstone or memorial stone. There’s not much room, so typically the headstone just lists their name, dates of birth and death, says rest in peace (or just RIP) and may contain a short poem or verse. From time to time we then visit the cemetery to remember the deceased, and to talk to them or say a prayer for them.
People’s lives have been remembered this way for centuries, and very little has changed.
Although I’m not obsessed with death, I have visited some famous cemeteries on my travels – La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires where Eva Peron is buried; Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris – home to many French writers, philosophers, artists, musicians and playwrights including Molière, Bizet, Balzac and Proust as well as a number of famous non-French people including Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde; the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague; the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi; and the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.
These are all well-known burial places and there are hundreds of tourists passing through them every day to visit the graves and memorials of their inhabitants, however in all cases there is not a lot of extra information available about the people buried in these cemeteries. You may be able to buy a guide to tell you who is buried there and where to find their grave, however you don’t get much more information than that.
This is also true closer to home. I’ve visited my grandparents’ graves, and my father-in-law’s grave, and have noticed the graves of a number of my ancestors nearby, however there is no way to find out any more about these people without going away and researching my family tree, which I must admit I don’t have the patience for.
So last week when I saw an article it caught my attention.
It was about a funeral director in the UK who is now offering QR codes on gravestones. When the QR code is scanned it opens up a biography web page, which can include video and pictures as well as text.
I thought about how much more interactive it could make the experience of remembering a loved one, and how useful it would be to learn more about my ancestors. It could make visits to the cemetery a more happy time, and would be a great way to teach kids about their ancestors. It would also make visits to famous graves and memorials far more educational.
What if the QR code opened up the deceased’s Facebook page, or a Facebook timeline of their life? Could you add a link to the person’s family tree? How about photos of them growing up or videos of them in happy times? Where couples are buried together why not upload the photos from their wedding album? In the case of famous musicians there could be videos of them live in concert, famous leaders could have their most famous speeches shown – the list goes on.
QR codes may or may not be the right technology to use, but I love the idea of making cemeteries more interactive and happy.
My question to you is: what would you like to have linked to from your grave to let people remember you?