Commentary on the Bohemian National Cemetery Website

As noted in prior posts on this site, I have a love of Bohemian National Cemetery. Why? No idea. I came to this city seven months ago and although I have the inclinations towards cemeteries as any other genealogist in the idea that they’re  stone tablets of information. This cemetery and the Eastland Disaster hold something for me that does not make sense in a traditional academic setting. It pulls on me and I want to know why.

The only time that I was able to drive there, I looked at the entrance way and noticed a stone tree trunk  within the roundabout. Across the street on Pulaski is another cemetery, St. Luke’s. I saw it when I exited the cemetery after only having three minutes to examine it on my first trip. My Flickr post gave that information already.

In examining the website this time around, I noticed the site is a little dated in appearance. That said, I am sure that its maintenance comes from volunteers who are doing their best. For cemeteries, although the land is paid for, it is unlikely that anything else happens to them other than upkeep on a few holidays. Memorial Day was not originally the first day of beaches and BBQs. It was meant for cleaning up cemeteries and giving homage to the dead. Hence, MEMORIAL. Also, Veteran’s Day is of similar nature. Most of the national holidays for America deal with dead people. It’s just how things go. Whether they are religiously-inclined or not, the commercialization of any holiday came after and because of the wish for people to celebrate or mourn in kind. Strong, visceral emotions accompany such things.

The site is adequate for a small cemetery but seems a little in need of help for anyone who wants to do research who is not living in Illinois. My initial searches on this site brought me to the friends page, to the Eastland Disaster Society page, and I even checked the Family History Library Catalog to make sure that there was something there for the group. There was something in the catalog, but on the site it appeared that there is only extracted information. The society may only have a portion whereas there is more outside of the society, maybe. I have not yet made adequate contect with the society in order to be able to speak appropriately on the subject concerning what they do over there. I want to know more, rather desperately.

Concerning the site, I’m not asking for Flash and Java or for Photoshop, cursable bane that is in my life at the present. I want information about who is in the cemetery to try to learn why this place pulls at me as if I was the object of the Puppet Warp tool in Photoshop. Following notice of the site, I also saw Friends of the Cemetery and proceeded to find out more about the present efforts at restoring the dome and keeping it all together. I have Slovak ancestry, but this appears to be a Czech place from when the Cezh Republic and Slovakia were merged. The ethnicities of Chicago teem and roil with undercurrents of homelands not more than two generations away for some, while four or further for others. What New York used to be, a seething mass of the masses, is now the convoluted twisting of enterprise dependent upon who was there last and who survived the churn.

I want and need this site to improve and I am willing to help do it. Whether it is a partitioned search engine of people’s names or simply a list that is easily searchable in a CTRL+F format, the information is as important as the place. The site gives very basic information found easily in on any telephone directory site. The Flickr images need to combine into a quickly and easily-searchable map crossed with the photos and the information that works with these people. Sounds like an independent research project to me. Takers? I need funding as does the rest of the world to make this happen. Funding, and better knowledge of how to program for designers. SOS.


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.