Grants:PEG/Smallbones/Congressional Cemetery QRpedia Project

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This submission to the Wikimedia Foundation Grants Program was funded in the fiscal year 2011-12. This is a grant to an individual.

IMPORTANT: Please do not make changes to this page now. They will be reverted.

  • This project has been funded, completed, and a project report has been reviewed and accepted by WMF Staff.
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Legal name of organization or individual requesting this grant
Peter Ekman
For organizations: Are you a for-profit entity? N/A
For organizations: If non-profit (US) or equivalent (outside the US) status is available in your country, do you have or are you pursuing such status (please be specific):
For individual applicants: Please note that if your request is accepted you will be required to provide documentation verifying your full legal name and address.
Grant contact name
Peter Ekman
Grant contact username or email
Grant contact title (position)
Project lead name
Project lead username or email
Project lead title (position), if any
Full project name
Congressional Cemetery QRpedia Project
Amount requested in USD or local currency (USD will be assumed if no other currency is specified)
Provisional target start date
July 1, 2012
Provisional completion date
October 1, 2012

Budget breakdown[edit]

  • $298 - for 62 anodized steel “Garden Markers” used to display the QR codes in a dignified manner next to the graves and cenotaphs.
  • $84 – for printing and laminating the QR codes (in general 10 sheets each with 6 codes, printed, laminated, and cut at about $7 per sheet, with 2 sheets mostly spoiled)
  • $30 - expected additional printing costs

for a total of $412.

Project goal[edit]

  • To create the “world’s largest outdoor encyclopedia of American history” at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, a National Historic Landmark, by posting 60 QR codes that link, via a smart phone and QRpedia, to Wikipedia articles in the preferred language of the smart phone’s owner.
  • To create a model of outdoor QR code use in the U.S. so that other organizations, including other cemeteries on the National Register of Historic Places, local history societies, and outdoor art groups can evaluate the use of QR codes for their own needs. For example, based on this model a local history society should be able to evaluate the types of display needed, the cost, and the results expected based on the extensive statistics gathered here, and then plan their own QR code project which then could be implemented with or without funding from the Wikimedia Foundation, or even without direct contact with Wikipedia itself. In other words, this project could become a model for “QR code projects that anybody can organize.”

Project scope and list of activities[edit]

Planned events The official start is July 1, in time for the important July 4th holiday. A press release is being prepared for the opening and will be sent out in time for the opening to all major media outlets that have a correspondent in Washington. The whole world is our target audience!

July 12 -14, during the Wikimania 2012 conference. A special tour of the Cemetery will be offered to Wikimaniacs and other Wikipedians, tentatively scheduled for 6 pm Thursday, July 12th. Preliminary contact has been made with the Wikimania organizers, and the tour will likely be provided as one of the informal “meetup” events that do not need official approval. Media outlets will be invited on the tour as well, and if we’ve missed sending the press release to any Washington correspondents, we’ll send it before this event.

September 1-3, Labor Day weekend will be another important time for the project, as many tourists will visit the Cemetery then. Any needed follow-up for the media will be presented about that time.

September 1 – 30, Wiki Loves Monuments is being held at this time. Both the DC Chapter and myself are deeply involved in this project and there will likely be some, as yet unplanned, cooperation between the projects. This cooperation, however, is likely to be informal rather than a major part of either project. In particular the DC Chapter plans to hold “The DC QRpedia Challenge” using teams to translate articles, and later post the associated QR codes. The Congressional Cemetery project may be used as a example of how to get permission to post and the methods of display available.


U.S. Congressional biography is one of the strengths of Wikipedia; essentially every person elected to Congress in the U.S. has an article on Wikipedia. At least 200 Congressmen are buried or memorialized in the Congressional Cemetery, a private cemetery founded in 1807. Over 300 Wikipedia articles link to the Congressional Cemetery article. These memorials and burials include one U.S. President, John Quincy Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Vice President, Elbridge Gerry, major congressional leaders such as John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, Tip O’Neill, and Wade Boggs. Many famous non-congressmen are also buried there such as J. Edgar Hoover, John Phillip Sousa, and photographer Matthew Brady. Although articles on some of these people appear in only one or a few languages on Wikipedia, many appear in dozens of languages.

The use of QR codes to link to Wikipedia articles via smart phones and QRpedia is starting to become fairly common. Pioneer projects include the Derby Museum in England and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The Sophia (Bulgaria) Zoo, which is currently on-going, is the single purely outdoor application of the technology. Perhaps the most impressive application, also currently on-going, is the Monmouthpedia project where a thousand codes, both indoor and outdoor, have been placed throughout the town of Monmouth, Wales.

This project builds on these previous projects and shares their focus on cultural institutions. It differs, however, in that it is a purely outdoor project in the U.S. and that it seeks to show others how this type of project can be done inexpensively by just a few people. In other words, it seeks to make QR code projects almost as easy as writing an article in Wikipedia.

A pilot project was run starting on May 4, 2012, with 6 QR codes posted in the Cemetery. The purpose of this project was to ensure that the supporters of the Cemetery (primarily dog-walkers who use the Cemetery everyday and provide about one-third of its revenue) would not object to the codes or their placement. Also, the durability of the codes was checked (it’s fine, they should easily last 3 months or much longer). The data gathering ability of QRpedia was checked (one minor glitch was ironed out).

The dog walkers seemed pleased, or at worst indifferent, to the codes. The was no apparent vandalism to the codes or garden markers. This was expected as the Cemetery is walled and locked up at night, and the dog-walkers provide a steady traffic during the day.

Two small surprises occurred. I found the garden marker holding the QR code for Leonard Matlovich to be twisted during a visit just before Memorial Day. It seems to have been hit with a lawn mower. I untwisted the marker fairly easily and placed it closer to the gravestone this time.

The statistics on the scans were somewhat disappointing. Through June 19 (46 days), there were only 58 scans total, with the QR code for Leonard Matlovich (perhaps the least well-known and most controversial subject) getting the highest individual total of 22 scans. The scans came from several types of phones, with iphones and Android phones accounting for about 1/3rd each. Only one scan was in a foreign language, Serbian.

These results convinced me that a “post it and they will scan” strategy might not work. Perhaps with a critical mass of 60 codes at the Cemetery, usage might increase, but to be a really cost effective method of accessing Wikipedia, a publicity campaign will be needed.

Fortunately, my contact at the Cemetery, Program Director Rebecca Boggs Roberts, is a well-known journalist (see e.g. ), the daughter of the legendary Cokie Roberts of National Public Radio, and the grand-daughter of Congressional leader Wade Boggs. She is a true Washington insider who knows her way around the world of journalism. She has agreed to review my press releases and offer a few tips.

Non-financial requirements[edit]

Essentially all the planning for the project has been done and a pilot project (the display of 6 QR codes at the Cemetery) has been completed. No other major support is anticipated, with the following exceptions:

  • some help in selecting the last few articles to be linked and further translations from Wikiproject GLAM
  • some help from the DC chapter during Wikimania in further publicizing the July 12 Cemetery Tour to Wikipedians.
  • some help from the WMF in reviewing the press releases would be nice, as would a list of media e-mails to send it to.

Fit to strategy[edit]

This project fits within the Wikimedia Foundation's strategic plan in several ways:

  • Mobile phone technology – the QR codes access Wikipedia via smart phone technology and may point the way to other creative uses of the technology.
  • Cooperation with cultural institutions – following other QRpedia projects, this project involves cooperation with a cultural institution. Nevertheless it broadens the scope of this cooperation – the Cemetery is not your usual museum, it is an outdoor project, and focuses on history as well as art. Other cemetery projects will likely follow. Some Wikipedians may use the lessons of this project to further increase the scope of QRpedia-type projects.
  • Increasing Reach & Participation - more people will be exposed to Wikipedia through this type of project, e.g. those who generally use their smart phones more than the internet, history buffs, and the general population of tourists, especially the international tourists who visit Washington, DC, as well as smaller groups such as cemetery dog-walkers. Participation may be increased by local history societies and others who would like to imitate this type of project.
  • Increasing Quality – if local historical societies and other similar groups are attracted to doing this type of project, their local experts will likely put a lot of work into these projects, increasing the quality and number of local historical articles.
  • Increasing Credibility – having a respected group such as the Congressional Cemetery Association display Wikipedia QR codes will let many people know that Wikipedia is no longer a collection of articles on garage bands (if it ever was just that). Having historical societies and other similar groups adopt this technology will further improve our credibility.
  • Financial Sustainability – posting QR codes is a very inexpensive project. It is my hope that other groups adopt this technology – using QRpedia to link to Wikipedia – and fund these projects themselves. It may actually be easier to raise a few hundred dollars themselves, or accept in-kind contributions such as garden markers from local sources, than to write up a detailed proposal such as this one :-)

Other benefits[edit]

I will write a detailed “How to manual” on doing this type of project after the results are known. This will include, how to create the QR codes, how to post them, checking article quality, help in getting translations, statistics available, and over all evaluation at the end of the project.

If the results turn out as expected, next year I will try to do two more of this type of project, with both being funded by the cooperating institutions:

  1. a group of about 50 18th century Quaker meetinghouses near Philadelphia. Most of these already have articles and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in NRHP historic districts, or have been written up (in a public domain publication) by the Historic American Buildings Survey. I already have very preliminary contact with the Quaker Historical Society and other local groups.
  2. a group of civic and cultural institutions in Cape May County, New Jersey. The city of Cape May claims to be America’s oldest seaside resort (c. 1803) and tourism and local history are a major contributor to the local economy. My contacts so far are very limited, but the first QR code (Fishing Creek Schoolhouse) goes up this weekend!

Measures of success[edit]

There are clear, quantitative measures of success:

  1. Number of QR code scans of the Congressional Cemetery articles, available directly from QRpedia. It is also likely that there will be a spillover effect and the total number of non-scanned page views will increase.
  2. Time to failure for the laminated QR codes (expected to be much greater than 3 months). This can be gathered by direct inspection, as well as from the QRpedia data. Similarly the number of garden markers that need to be replaced can be counted.
  3. Increase in the quantity of Congressional Cemetery linked articles and photographs in the Commons Category:Congressional Cemetery.
  4. The number of articles printed on the project in the press.
  5. And most importantly, the number of similar projects that follow suit next summer.

Team members (optional)[edit]

See also[edit]

Further information (added here after the grant's approval):

Grave of Representative Tom Lantos. Note the QR code.