By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Arlington National Cemetery on Monday made available to the public a massive electronic database detailing the gravesites of the roughly 400,000 people buried there.
Cemetery officials built the database over the last two years to verify the accuracy of their records brought into question by reports of misidentified graves. Prior to 2010, the cemetery used paper records and maps to track who is buried where.
On Monday at the Association of the United States Army convention in Washington, the cemetery debuted an interactive map available through its website and through a free smartphone app. It uses geospatial technology to hone in on specific graves and can also be searched by name.
It can be accessed through the cemetery's website www.arlingtoncemetery.mil.
When a name is called up, a viewer can see when the person was buried and the dates of their birth and death. Photos of the front and back of the headstone can also be viewed. Monuments and memorials that commemorate the service of specific military units are also included in the database.
The application also highlights some of the notable graves throughout the cemetery that are popular with the roughly 4 million visitors annually that the cemetery draws.
"This is a great day for veterans and our families," said Kathryn Condon, executive director of the Army National Military Cemeteries, which includes Arlington.
Officials say the new app makes it easier for people walking the cemetery to locate a loved one's burial place. The app can be downloaded at the cemetery's visitor center.
The database has been the subject of a painstaking review and even now is not 100 percent complete. Katharine Kelley, the cemetery's director of accountability, said that about 99.4 percent of the nearly 260,000 gravesites, niches and markers have been verified.
The remaining few deal largely with some of the cemetery's oldest graves and records, which date to the Civil War. In many cases, it may be an effort to verify the spelling of the first name of a spouse buried at the cemetery among disparate handwritten records.
Condon said she could not say how much it cost to develop the website and mobile app, largely because the work to develop the technology was conducted in house.
The geospatial technology used to power the smartphone is the same that the cemetery uses to coordinate the 25 to 30 burials conducted there every day. Care is taken to ensure, for example, that maintenance work at the cemetery is not conducted at the same time and place as a burial service.
Arlington officials say the cemetery is one of the most technically advanced in the nation.