Off the beaten tourist trail on E Street southeast, Historic Congressional Cemetery holds 55,000 remains and just as many colorful tales of congressmen, military leaders and even a brothel owner.
But those tales don’t pay the bills.
“Money is always an issue,” says Rebecca Roberts, director of the Historic Congressional Cemetery Program. “Getting people interested in preserving a place like this is always an issue.”
Enter Wikipedia, which has posted markers on dozens of graves. It's called the quick response, or QR code project.
“People who are walking around can use their cell phones and just read a full encyclopedia article about the person who's buried here,” says Peter Ekman, founder of the Congressional Cemetery Wikipedia QR code project.
The Wikipedia project is a first for a U.S. cemetery. The Historic Congressional Cemetery Program is hoping that a little technology will boost interest in this 200 year old burial ground.
Your smartphone simply scans the marker.
It calls up the article on the person occupying the site, such as John Philip Sousa or other cemetery notables, like first FBI director J. Edgar Hoover or first openly gay serviceman, Leonard Matlovich.
When this cemetery was founded in 1807, it was used as a public park. People came and had picnics on the stones. So this is just a modern twist on a very, very old tradition.