Flickr Makes Cemetery Research Easier

I will admit to a bias against Flickr until recently. Considering Yahoo a part of the old Internet regime of the middle 1990’s, I fought joining or using it and never cared that much about anything to do with it. I joined Pinterest, another photo-sharing site, before joining Flickr.  As usual in my media biases dealing with Internet applications of late (meaning Twitter), I was wrong. Dead wrong, literally.

My recent research brings me to looking into a cemetery dealing with the Eastland Disaster.

eastland disaster picture

Eastland Disaster picture from 1915

Most of the people interned from this disaster are at Bohemian National Cemetery off Foster near Jefferson Park. Although I pass by the cemetery semi-regularly, I have no relatives from the Midwest that I know about and thus have absolutely no idea why this cemetery draws me in. I can think of theories on the topic, but until I physically get there and try to make sense of it, I’m not postulating here yet.

Besides this interest, I happen to love cemeteries. I’m not a goth, and I have no funky-odd intentions towards cemeteries. I’m a librarian by current training. All that I’d ever want to do with them is to write information, make sure that it was accessible to everybody, make sure that the gravestones didn’t sink so far that they aren’t read-able (difference between readability and legibility) and leave the dead alone. Pretty harmless stuff dealing with organization of information and sharing it. That, and cemetery artwork is just plain cool. For my intentions, there is nothing bad about it.

I get to Flickr due to a school assignment. Fine, I’ll do it. Previous to this, I read articles on how others used Flickr in annotating historical pictures. While this was an intriguing read, the catalog was in French. Sorry, I don’t read French. I can speak/read  Spanish, and very basic Russian, Japanese, Korean, and some Portuguese pronunciation, and can read Latin and basic Hungarian-Latinized script. I’m learning German while writing this in English, but French… not there yet. So while interesting and sounding like a great idea, I did not want to look up the project even though I had heard of it and the Library of Congress’s Commons is very well-known and reputed.

With this background in mind, I got on Flickr being an overly late adopter. The first group that I see on the home page is Graves and Tombstones. Now we’re talking. A few searches later, and presto: Eastland Disaster victims and Bohemian National Cemetery pictures arrive with beauty and sadness. A few flashes of Dr. Who’s Weeping Angels also went through my mind while looking at the pictures. Who are these people? What were their lives like? Prior to this, I already looked up the Disaster and found books on the subject, the Society which deals with this, and that there will be a Broadway-style play coming out on the disaster in June. It is a Chicago Disaster, like the Iroquois Theater fire, which led to changes in safety laws for the better. That said, it is hard to make beauty from disaster, but that is the best way of celebrating the deceased. And now to find out why that cemetery pulls on me. Mysteries continue.

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