Many cemeteries today are dealing with a critical challenge: They are running out of room. Unfortunately, more burial space for expansion is hard to secure in light of booming urban expansion and stricter zoning regulations. Similarly, many cemeteries are still running on legacy paper records that not only take up space, but also prove difficult and time consuming when trying to assess the current status on lots and deeds. Thus, many cemeteries are beginning to digitize their records to make these assessments easier, so critical decisions can be made on expansion.
Town of Marshfield Gains Peace of Mind with Cloud-Based Records Management
A perfect case in point can be found in Marshfield, Mass., a 350-year-old town, 30 miles south of Boston on the Cape Cod Bay. Being locked in on one side by the Atlantic Ocean only exacerbated the space problem the Cemetery Department was dealing with.
The seven cemeteries spread across the Town of Marshfield were filling up pretty quickly, so the issue of cemetery expansion quickly became a priority. As such, The Board of Public Works requested an audit of the cemetery records to verify available lots. The problem the Cemetery Department faced was how to accurately and quickly review a storage safe full of thousands of documents dating back multiple decades.
The records, originally kept in a walk-in safe at Town Hall and using a filing process loosely based on the Dewey Decimal system, amounted to thousands of pieces of paper between the multiple maps for each cemetery, deed and burial cards along with copies of the actual deeds. At the time, the Board Chairman, being a technology proponent, wanted to see all the records digitized and easily available on computers. The Cemetery Department selected a provider experienced in digital transformation and one that offered a proven, cloud-based cemetery records management platform to help.
The majority of the project was done once the documents were digitized. Immediately thereafter, the Cemetery Department’s staff was able to review records, cross-checking questionable lots, and then rectifying them in the system. Whether it was a superintendent, the cemetery foreman or the administrative clerk, they all now had immediate access and insight into the same cemetery information, getting a real-time overview of which lots were being used and which ones were available.
“The whole process of selling a cemetery lot prior to our digitization project was very, very tedious,” said Dan Bowen, assistant superintendent of business administration for the Town of Marshfield. “Take the call, locate the paper map, get the ladder to reach the shelf where it’s stored, make sure you have the right map, walk it over to the trailer, open the map to review it and call the person back to discuss options—and hope the map you have is accurate. The Cemetery Department operates at more than 90-percent efficiency now.”
Read the full case study to learn how the Town of Marshfield’s cemetery records-management solution uses a combination of innovative technologies, capabilities and customer support to successfully digitize and manage both old and new information.
Do Your Homework on Vendors
Before any Cemetery Department begins a digitization project, it should conduct the necessary due diligence. Vendors under consideration should have the infrastructure in place to perform large-scale scanning projects and have a track record of working with Cemetery Departments in the past. Also, Cemetery Departments should look for solution providers that offer multiple options for storing and managing records, along with other applications such as digital signature, version control and workflow automation.