• Date: 05/07/2017
  • Cemetery: GMCT Home

What does it take to map a large public open space as complex and historically rich as a cemetery? GMCT mapping specialists Tina Bell and Karina Vitiritti are working with innovative new technologies to make it easier for our cemetery visitors to find the resting places of ancestors and notable gravesites.

In 2016, GMCT launched a new digital mapping system using Intramaps technology – the first cemetery in Australia to do so.

The geographic information system (GIS) connects with GMCT’s website deceased search function, allowing the public to search our records database and generate a custom map showing the precise location of a specific plot.

 It is a valuable tool that has connected many Victorians with their ancestors, but it’s also challenging to maintain. GMCT manages 19 cemeteries with around 500,000 plots, each with their own unique geographic characteristics and some with a history dating back 150 years. The goal is to map all historic plots and of course, the new ones that are constructed.

 As GIS officers, Tina and Karina are responsible for ensuring mapping data is as accurate and comprehensive as possible. Their days are spent out in cemetery grounds, meticulously plotting, measuring and inspecting the built environment, or at their computer screens, carefully entering the information they have collected in the field.

 “It’s not just maps,” Karina says. “A map is only as good as the data that goes into it, so a lot of time is spent collecting and cleansing data, and inputting new data. We want it to be right and we’re passionate about making it happen.”

 “We spend a lot of time walking around our sites looking for graves we’re trying to find, or discovering ones we didn’t know existed,” Tina says. “It’s always an interesting expedition. Each of our sites is so different.”

Karina says cemeteries are complex places to map, each akin to a city on a smaller scale. Instead of buildings and blocks of land, there are monuments and plots. And every one of those plots has a different owner, and potentially, an individual at rest – because of course, some plots have not yet been used.

Reproducing thousands of cemetery records in map form requires care, sensitivity and accuracy.

“The hard part is that everything needs to be validated,” Tina says. “You need to go back through the records. Luckily we’ve got great teams at GMCT to support that as well. The grave you’re looking for might be 100 years old and you have to go back and find out about it.”

The launch of the GIS mapping system has significantly boosted GMCT’s data capture and mapping capabilities, and has also improved the accessibility of those maps for the public.

“In Australia we were, I believe, one of the leaders,” Karina says. “It’s a great GIS product. It is leading the way. It’s really nice to be behind something you like and admire.”

“The new system enables everyone to use it from their desktop, and it is really user-friendly,” Tina adds. “You can use it on different devices. It’s also more interactive - you can zoom in and out on the maps, and get a sense of what else is in the area as well.”

Moving into the future, Tina and Karina’s goal is to continue ensuring GMCT cemeteries as accessible as possible for everyone, whether they’re in-person visitors , online or perhaps one day – virtually.

“In the way that we’re validating a lot of the GIS data, we’re ensuring future generations have access to that data as well. It’s not just for today, it’s also for the future,” Tina says.

For now, it’s also a matter of balancing new digital technologies – such as the on-the-spot smartphone mapping offered by the GIS – with the paper-based maps preferred by many in the community.

“Often its older generations visiting our cemeteries, so perhaps the need for technology hasn’t been there in the past,” Karina says. “It’s changing pretty quickly…we’re setting up for the future. But we have to keep it really simple.

“When we’re out there in our cemeteries, we see a lot of visitors, we talk to a lot of visitors, and we help a lot of visitors. It’s nice to be able to help people to find their loved ones, whether it’s at home on their computers, or out on site.

“It’s great knowing we can really help to move GMCT forward to where we want to be, which is what we’ve done with the GIS.

“Our vision would be to have digital mapping within the cemeteries themselves - a digital platform on site where people can search. That’s where we see it going in the future.

“There’s a lot more we’d like to investigate.”

GMCT is in the process of launching a series of new cemetery maps. Visit Our Locations for printable PDF maps to assist you in finding your way around our cemeteries.

If you have feedback on any aspect of GMCT’s mapping system or ways we can best meet the needs of our communities, or if you have information that could enhance GMCT records please contact us.