GIS-based Mapping in America’s First Garden Cemetery

In the United States, garden cemeteries as we know them today emerged out of the growing need to separate burial grounds from city life. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts (approx. 4 miles from Boston), and founded in 1831, Mount Auburn Cemetery became the first of these “rural cemeteries”.  It serves as both a burial ground and a horticultural display garden spanning 175-acres, making it the nation’s first garden cemetery.

Mount Auburn Garden Cemetery

Improving Garden Cemetery Workflows

Like many other public gardens that host large amounts of plant collections, Mount Auburn relies on a sophisticated botanical garden database application called BG-BASE. When it comes to GIS-based mapping, plant information stored in BG-BASE cannot be easily fed into web-based maps.

Blue Raster collaborated with Mount Auburn, The Alliance for Public Gardens GIS (APGG), and BG-BASE to develop an automated link from BG-BASE to Esri software. This process involved moving plant record data to a SQL Server Enterprise Geodatabase loaded with the Alliance for Public Gardens GIS data-model. Existing plant records, attribute or location updates, and new additions can be pushed from BG-BASE to Esri database. As a result, plant information displays in GIS-based mapping applications and is accessible for internal horticulture and facility management teams.

This brings Mount Auburn Cemetery to the forefront of the public garden community with its continued moderization of horticulture management via GIS.

Flora Mount Auburn Application

In addition to automating internal workflows, Blue Raster developed Mount Auburn’s first interactive web mapping application, Flora Mount Auburn. The app showcases plant collections, staff-curated tours, and amenities across the cemetery. Showcased on a custom-made basemap, users can virtually navigate the grounds while exploring and interacting with the surrounding flora.

We leveraged ArcGIS Enterprise, ArcGIS Portal and the ArcGIS JavaScript API.

The Explore feature allows you to take thematic tours that expose the user to a variety of plants and landscapes across the 175 acres. Tour themes cover topics like environmental stewardship and sustainability, African American heritage, and famous botanists and horticulturalists at Mount Auburn. In the app, the tour walking distance, time, and total points of interest are displayed before starting. When the tour begins, the app navigates along the delineated tour path of the curated tour.

In addition to tours, the map offers visitors a 360-degree experience to view plants or monuments. Using Cemetery360 technology, Flora Mount Auburn allows users to drop a pin and immerse themselves in the area of interest, outdoors and indoors!

Mount Auburn Flora Garden Cemetery
Mount Auburn Flora image

The Search Plants feature allows you to look-up plants in the garden cemetery and see where they are located across the grounds. Plants can be searched by their Common, Scientific or Family Name, Habit, Garden Location, or unique Accession and Qualifier. A plant Search List is generated as you look for plants, which can be exported to a table with details of every plant that exists in the searched plant collection.

Whether you’re a botanist or a novice plant enthusiast, the app makes it easy to search, locate, and learn more about your plants of interest.

Blue Raster's Garden Experience

Blue Raster is experienced with plant data and workflows in gardens and cemeteries. We leverage Esri Field GIS applications for plant and monument maintenance workflows, drones for high resolution imagery, mobile applications for visitors, and continually stay up to date with the American Public Gardens Association.

Blue Raster continues to serve public gardens in their mission to be inclusive for all and indispensable to the community. Learn more about how gardens are modernizing their operations by combining their horticulture management with GIS:

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