This lecture is part of the 2009 Nationwide Cemetery Preservation Summit

Geospatial Mapping and Thematic Documentation of Historic Cemeteries by Allison Duncan and Andrew Kohr

Abstract:
The goal of this presentation is to demonstrate how current technology including GIS mapping, spatial analysis, and thematic documentation provide new dimensions to the analysis of historic cemeteries. Expanding upon traditional methods of cemetery documentation and preservation, these new tools and processes help to better articulate and prioritize existing conditions and issues to a variety of stakeholders at a micro and macro level.
Micro level (Site)
Oakland Cemetery (48 acres) and Harmony Grove Cemetery (1 acre) are located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, and were analyzed and studied using thematic mapping and GIS mapping methodologies. Despite their difference in size, both cemeteries dealt with a number of issues including : view sheds, grave locations, vegetation conditions, circulation, zoning, and other off-site conditions. Traditional cemetery mapping and analysis techniques focus on specific conditions related solely to the cemetery or gravestones without regard for other environmental conditions or factors, which may extend beyond the cemetery boundaries. Less emphasis is put on investigating broad scale themes that greatly impact a site’s ability to be preserved and maintained. Examining these issues in a thematic manner allows complex issues to be given greater weight with a broader audience, while GIS mapping places analysis and research into an expanded context. Mapping both cemeteries focused on a broader approach, investigating issues both within and around the cemetery.
One results of these efforts included greater stakeholder input because of the ability for those individuals outside the preservation and design community to understand the issues relative to the site. Additionally, the community and stakeholders were able to better prioritize preservation efforts, that went beyond basic cyclical maintenance needs, The ability to broadly interpret and display these issues assisted the stakeholders and the community to develop a better understanding of their cultural asset.
Macro (Region)
Morgan County, a rural in northeast Georgia, undertook a survey of historic cemeteries in 2007. The county includes approximately 356 square miles of mostly agricultural land , 226 cemeteries were documented within unincorporated municipalities, using GPS tracking and GIS mapping. Not only is this a valuable tool to protect historic cemeteries from damage caused by present-day development, but it also outlined historic patterns of development which formed the basis of a rural preservation land use plan. Over 25 historic communities were identified within Morgan County using a variety of archival sources and historic maps. Many of the structures associated with those communities have long since disappeared, but the cemeteries remain as tangible placeholders of the legacy of there former communities.
With this information in place, it became a priority to identify those characteristics in the context of the historic communities in which they were located. In the future, these cemetery locations may foster the creation of historic districts as well as the preservation of significant rural cultural landscapes.
In summary, both of these projects in their respective rural and urban contexts create opportunities to see the bigger picture and broader themes of an area or community beyond just the cemetery site. By comparing the elements of geospatial mapping and thematic documentation involved with both , this presentation will demonstrate how technology allows for a micro and macro analysis of the significant characteristics, monument typologies and trends that each site represents, and it lends itself to prioritizing decision-making in a manner that respects not just the fabric of the individual site, but its significance to the overall context. These methods are essential to the understanding of the individual site, contribute to the larger planning endeavors, and assist in priority setting and placemaking that benefits both the site and the community.

Author Biography:
Allison Duncan, AICP, is a project manager for Ecos Environmental Design in Atlanta, GA. Formerly, she was the Senior Planner for Morgan County in Madison, Georgia. Allison holds a Bachelors Degree in Liberal Studies from Mercer University and a Masters Degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Georgia. Professional memberships include the Georgia Planning Association, the American Planning Association, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. During her tenure, she implemented the creation of a country-wide Resource Preservation Advisory Board to oversee the documentation and stewardship of the county’s historic and cultural resources. Allison worked with the Board to initiate an oral history project and is currently developing Rural Design Guidelines for Morgan County to help preserve and protect its rural character.

Mr. Andrew Kohr, ASLA, holds an undergraduate degree in Historic Preservation from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and a graduate degree in Landscape Architecture, from Ball State University in Munice, Indiana. He presently serves as Assistant Director of the Historic Preservation and Cultural Landscapes Studio at Robert and Company in Atlanta, GA.

Mr. Kohr and his firm are the recent recipients of two Georgia Chapter ASLA Merit Awards for the Oakland Cemetery Master Plan (Atlanta, GA) and the Historic Columbia Foundation Cultural Landscape Master Plan (Columbia, SC). Mr. Kohr is the 2006 recipient of the J. Neil Reed Travel Fellowship from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

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