Volunteers use GPS technology to map, clean up East End Cemetery

Updated: Feb. 2, 2020 at 2:20 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Saturday morning, the Friends of East End Cemetery and volunteers with the University of Richmond got together to clean up East End Cemetery in Henrico.

East-End Cemetery is a historic African-American cemetery, and volunteers are trying to restore it back to its to former glory.

The University of Richmond is assisting the Friends of East End Cemetery to map their online database of names.

“When we find these gravestones out here, we uncover them and we do the research on them and it’s an ongoing process,” said John Shuck with the Friends of East End Cemetery. “It’s kind of a year long black history month out here.”

Each headstone that the volunteers find is unearthed cleaned, and placed back on it’s stand for display. From there, the name and dates on the headstone is recorded on an online database and GPS coordinates are recorded to an interactive drone map so that the grave site can never be lost again.

“We want to be able to make it easy for family members in the community to find out where the headstones are located," said Kristine Grayson with the University of Richmond’s Biology department.”

“It feels rewarding to bring that persons name back to the surface,” said volunteer Maurice Fountain.

Since 2013, volunteers have been working to uncover long-buried headstones and reclaim the history of this community. The digital map represents curation work led by the Friends of East End to document the burials at this site and mapping support from the University of Richmond Spatial Analysis Lab.

"Now we’re going through the process of connecting those individual points with a drone image,” Grayson.

“It’s mainly so families can reconnect with loved ones with the graves of loved ones out here," said Shuck. “These people aren’t necessarily well known people in the history of Richmond, but they are a part of Richmond’s history, whoever they were and whatever they did.”

You can access that database HERE. If you have loved ones who may be buried in at East End Cemetery and you want to find the exact location of their headstone you can find that information HERE.

On April 22nd, 2020 at 6:30 p.m., the East End Collaboratory, the Friends of East End, and Oakwood Arts will be hosting an event, “Reclaiming This Ground: Honoring the History and Community of East End Cemetery” at Peter Paul Development Center.

This event brings together volunteers, students, faculty, descendants, and the community to honor the people and history of East End Cemetery through commemorative acts, oral histories, maps, presentations of research (historical, archaeological, and demographic), and a collaborative art project.

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