Military Matters: Database Allows People To Visit Cemeteries Virtually

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There are 13 historic cemeteries on Fort Drum, remnants of villages displaced in the post's massive expansion in 1941.

A couple of those cemeteries are only open to the public one day a year.

"So, we felt that the very least we could do would be to use modern technology to make it possible for these families to visit their loved ones any time using the internet," said Dr. Laurie Rush, Fort Drum's cultural resources manager.

Thus, Fort Drum's new online cemetery database was born.

It's a search-able catalog of every single grave on post, including everything from names and death dates, to related individuals, to the condition of each stone.

Knowing a stone's condition helps prioritize which ones need the most attention.

"It's really allowing us to care for the stones easier and relay the information to the public a lot easier," said research fellow Michael Sprowles, who works with Rush.

But there was nothing easy about putting the database together.

Sprowles spent the last year and a half documenting the grave markers. Nearly 2,200 of them, in all.

"It really was a lot of sitting in front of head stones, taking measurements, writing stuff down," Sprowles said.

"I would use clipboards and flashlights to get different lighting so I could make out all of the epitaphs."

It was painstaking work and well worth the effort.

"He's bringing these cemeteries back to life in this respect and making the information available to any family member, or any member of the public that is interested in this piece of our history and our heritage," Rush said.

See the database.

Saturday, October 25, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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