Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Cassandra Morgan

Cemetery app exhumes forgotten stories

The Discover Cemeteries app takes visitors on two tours through Victoria's largest graveyard. (ADRIAN VITTORIO) (AAP)

Andrew Eriksen sees cemeteries as great troves of history, but too often the stories of those who lie there remain buried with them.

The Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, which he heads, is trying to change that, inviting Melburnians to Fawkner Memorial Park to learn about those who came before them through an augmented-reality app.

The Discover Cemeteries app takes visitors on two tours through Victoria's largest graveyard, the first starting with an old mortuary train springing to life before them and moving away from a station.

Through their phones, they can do a full 360-degree turn and see people from another time picnicking on the grass behind them.

The tours also introduce visitors to characters like Gunai-Kurnai man Bill Bull, whose gumleaf street music delighted crowds but also regularly landed him in jail.

The app takes people to his graveside and a video they can watch about his life.

"This is a living library but the truth is, they're not our books ... they're somebody else's story," Mr Eriksen told AAP.

"As well as being human interest for us, it's actually very important in our responsibility to look after those that have passed.

"What we're trying to do is just bring people to be present and mindful of those that have gone before."

The app brings light to the social value of cemeteries and also aims to push people towards discovering some of their physical elements, like walking tracks, animal habitats and lakes.

Despite the perception most don't want to talk about death, people have an inquisitive desire to understand what happens in cemeteries, Mr Eriksen said.

Once they start to explore, they become more connected to them.

"Ask any employee here - around the dinner table, if you mention you work at a cemetery, slowly the conversation will turn and you'll be the subject matter expert for the rest of the night," Mr Eriksen said.

The cemeteries trust focused on diversity when developing the app and sought permission to share people's stories from their descendants - one of whom appeared at the app's recent launch.

The organisation is waiting for public feedback before deciding whether to expand the app.

In the digital age, it's easy to scroll past content, Mr Eriksen said.

Bringing together digital and physical spaces lets people truly be present when they're memorialising or exploring history.

"That cohabitation is really powerful," he said.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.