17 February 2006

Documenting Cimitiere Montparnasse

I've picked up a new project on a whim. A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a website called Find A Grave (findagrave.com). This site is a database of cemeteries all over the world, which allows you to include photos, biographies, and virtual flowers. When I initially discovered the site, I just looked up famous people. Later, I went back and searched for relatives, without turning anything up.

My interest was renewed this week when I realized that I had a bunch of great photos from Cimitiere Montparnasse and Pere Lachaise that I could share. After uploading pics from the entries that didn't already have gravesite photos, I realized that I was in a unique position. How many people have tons of free time to run aroud and take photos in Paris at their leisure? So, I decided that it would be fun to take as many "famous people" grave pictures as I could.

Right now, I'm focusing my efforts on Cimitiere Montparnasse, since it's in my arrondissement and also easy to walk to. I took 62 photos today (yikes!), using the celebrity map that the cemetery guard provides. (By the way, the map is terrible -- there are tons of mistakes.) Interestingly, I've found that a lot of the famous people don't even have entries in the Find-A-Grave database, so I've been adding people as I go along.

Some of you might find this project to be morbid and disgusting. Personally, I feel like I'm helping to fill in historical gaps, even though it's on a small scale. Plus, I think the website is a handy reference for researchers: not everyone has the time or money to travel to Paris just to see the gravesite of his or her person of interest. As a bonus, I'm learning about a lot of other people's contributions to the world, big and small alike. It makes me feel good to provide information that most people don't have access to on a regular basis.

I've also been somewhat interested in my geneology, since I don't really know much about my roots. I added entries for my paternal grandparents (though the memorial pages are slim because all of my records and pictures for them are in storage in Michigan). Both of them died in 1999, and I have to admit, I really miss having them around. These two little tribute pages are my own little way to keep their memories alive, even though very few people will probably ever surf to their pages. Plus, who knows, maybe I'll find long-lost relatives when they trace themselves through those entries?

Anyway, I encourage you to participate in this neat project if you feel so inclined. If nothing else, you might enjoy making a virtual tribute to your late heroes.


At 18/2/06 17:39, Anonymous Tam Jones said...

Bonjour! We were directed to your site by a friend from Mexico (we're in Columbia) - and of course, you know we're not referring to the countries. :) We're enjoying reading it and learning more about Paris. We're visiting for the 1st time in June.

I love cemeteries. They're fascinating. I remember as a child going to cemeteries in central MO with my grandmother and great Aunts, walking around and reading all the old stones. It's interesting how they demonstrate changing attitudes towards death throughout the years. There was an interesting article in the Columbia Tribune about a cemetery in which I have ancestors in. No one has figured out what these symbols mean

And I think the cemeteries I look at are old - ha! :)

At 19/2/06 15:50, Blogger Karla said...

Have you run across Toyen (Marie Čermínová)? I think her grave is at Père Lachaise but I may be remembering wrong.

At 21/2/06 22:16, Blogger Karla said...

Amy, I got your note and will get you the details. Does Jesse have your email address? How much bibliography do you need? (I could drown in bibliography.) Thanks!

At 14/9/06 07:00, Blogger amy7252 said...

For the record, I misspelled Cimetière in this post. (The fourth letter is an e, not an i.) Ah, the things I have learned in the past few months!


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