Cemeteries Go Digital

digital-kioskOne might think that cemeteries, and burial, are pretty straightforward. As it turns out, there’s room for technical innovation in cemeteries just like there is in any other industry, and Nebraska cemeteries are moving towards digitization of the ancient practice of burial.

No, there won’t be robots dropping people in their graves, but the Wyuka Cemetery in Nebraska City will be installing a digital kiosk to help people more easily find their loved ones. Cemetery Director Jim Teten and Nebraska City Public Properties Director and Zoning Administrator Dan Giitinger said that’s why the Wyuka Cemetery Advisory Board came up with the idea of the digital kiosk: “People wandering around would easily be able to find the gravesites of loved ones,” Teten said. “This would’ve been great 10 or 15 years ago.”

The kiosk will cost at least $35,000 and will be purchased from Windy Prairie Systems Inc. in Indianola, Nebraska. “What we’re trying to do is raise some funds because the city budget is really tight. There’s not really any money for this type of activity,” Giitinger told the Nebraska City News. “So we’ve sent out letters of interest to the local foundations and we’re asking for anyone in the community that would be interested in donating to this project.” This isn’t a trend happening just in Nebraska City, though: Giitinger said that kiosks are beginning to appear across the entire state and nation. Windy Prairie CEO Steve Richman explains that “business is growing at a rapid pace, we are currently in 12 states and adding. We are receiving business inquiries from New York, Washington, Indiana, even some inquiries are now coming out of Canada.”

The kiosks’ software, website design, and veterans memorial software is developed in the Lincoln area, but most of the structural work for the directories is built at the Indianola manufacturing site. The kiosks are pretty amazing, actually, and can contain burial and military service information, biographies, and photographs of the deceased. They’re also manufactured to be able to resist harsh Midwest weather: The kiosk would be weather and water resistant, and hopefully, would have a structure built over it to further protect from weather. There’s a larger demand for the kiosks due to an increased interest in family history and genealogy: “The kiosks were very helpful as you can look and see where a family or friend is buried. I tried to locate a relative down at Verdon Cemetery and there was no kiosk, so I walked it and still didn’t find her,” said local historian Betty Stukenholtz of Otoe County.

Windy Prairie Systems was created in 2000, and designs products to allow local communities to build a lasting, permanent memorial for their town. They manufacture three types of directories for individual cemeteries’ needs, but all are constructed with durable materials and provide easy access for handicapped persons.

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photo credit: Windy Prairie Systems