New life for old dead people

Charles Cowling


It may have passed us by here at the GFG-Batesville Tower. We can wear thin. Exciting innovation, breathlessly announced in gushing PR-ese, sometimes gets the yeah-yeah. 

We’re talking about the US trend for putting QR codes on headstones. Has it crossed the Atlantic yet? If not, why not? We concede that it may have. 

It’s a terrifically good idea. Cheap, too, at around £35 a throw. You take a QR tag measuring roughly 1 inch x 2 inches. You stick it on a headstone or any other memorial — it’s not just for buried dead people. You point your smartphone at it and it takes you to a webpage containing the life story of the dead person plus photographs of said dead person plus links (optional) to social network sites and a really good online memorial site like MuchLoved

At a stroke it solves the problem that has beset the memorialisation of everybody save the enduringly famous. Burial grounds the world over currently commemorate amnesia. They are full of people who, even those with the biggest tombs, mean nothing to anyone. Why? Because the inscriptions on their headstones/obelisks/mausolea are insufficiently informative to make them remotely interesting. 

And yet there are loads of exceedingly interesting dead people out there, from age-old B-list celebs to civic worthies to extraordinary ordinary people. Add ’em up, that’s almost everyone dead and buried. 99.999%. Tell us more about them, what they were like, and suddenly a graveyard becomes a really good and satisfying read. 

The appeal is obvious to the contemporary bereaved. But it’s greater than that. Many of our burial grounds stretch back over centuries. So here’s a job for local historians. Research the life stories of the occupants of your burial grounds, then slap a QR tag on their headstones. The general reader will bless you. Imagine parties of schoolchildren zooming around with their smartphones, history coming to life before their eyes…

Check out some QR code memorialisation specialists here and here and here


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Robert TeedMike RRichard RawlinsonRu CallenderMelissa Stewart Recent comment authors

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Robert Teed

I have a business called
We make QR code Grave Markers

Richard Rawlinson
Richard Rawlinson

I’m involved in QR coded links on websites and the printed page at work. I’d also come across them in a few shop windows to give passers-by a more indepth picture of product functions. I’d never made the mental leap to graves though. Cemeteries as digital libraries, melding the physical present with the history of deceased souls. A remarkable concept.

Ru Callender

What a brilliant move Melissa. Clever.
Gloria, I don’t need to remind you what Shakespeare said about lawyers…

Melissa Stewart

We don’t use headstones but we put QR codes on our grave location plans. They are particularly useful for natural burial grave locations.

gloria mundi

So the creative vision Charles gives us runs smack into the dull realities of global capitalism, with lawyers rattling their expectant quills. Bah!


QR codes taking you to an online memorial site is a great idea which is why a guy called Mr Mindrum in the US has patented it. The patent is held by a company called MeM which is owned, I believe, by our old friends at SCI.

I understand that no-one has been prosecuted yet but be careful. Lawyers for a company I know that looked at this reckon it covers obits, service sheets and any other memorial item that a QR code could be placed on.

Phoebe Hoare
Phoebe Hoare

This is fantastic Charles, I would go and buy a smartphone straight away if this were to take hold. It would transform a cemetery into a centre for learning, which is never a bad thing! I’m trying to think of the negatives but can’t come up with any! I particularly like the idea of researching extraordinary ordinary people. Thank you for this, it has got my brain ticking!