Mobile application to enhance the visiting of a cemeterial museum space: Technology for education and culture

Roberto Padula, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (PUC-SP), Brazil, Renato Folla, USP, Brazil, David de Oliveira Lemes, PUC-SP, Brasil


The educational role of museums has increased worldwide in recent decades, targeting free choice learning. Cemeteries may also be considered as cultural heritage museums, once they have lost their characteristics as sites of sadness and mourning, and have become real places of memory. The cemetery "musealization" is an increasingly important subject of study in museology, fundamental to the preservation of these spaces as locations of famous people, tombs, and funerary art created by renowned sculptors. Cemitério Consolação is a burial place of many historical figures, including politicians, artists, industrials and many others, in addition to the site of hundreds of funerary art works. This article's purpose is to verify the effectiveness of a mobile application at providing self-guided visits at Cemitério Consolação, focusing on the educational aspects for users. Many visitors don't exploit a visit to the museum as much as possible due to a lack of information. Some technologies can help guide visitors through space, directing them to exhibitions or objects that match their preferences, or suggesting routes or other digital resources to interact with. This may increase the knowledge and understanding acquired at the site, challenging and stimulating visitors. We developed a mobile application using the following steps: cataloging tombs; bibliographical research; self-guided visit routes; geolocation and tomb photographs; information architecture and data modeling; choice of application technology; and application construction and tests. Planned routes were designed according to spontaneous visitors, and also to scholars' interests. For example, the script “20 must-see” was basically designed for visitors with little knowledge about the site and what they could find there. The search for a name of a sculptor or buried celebrity, and the search for keywords (e.g. "musicians," "poets", "chapels" etc.) have great value for the site's explorers, facilitators, professionals and researchers.

Keywords: Information technology, museums, cemeteries, education, mobile application


Museums stand out among the many broad and complex educational institutions as suppliers of culture and information. They were created to care for collections and exhibit the past, but they have increasingly become informative sites, playing an educational role focused on improving visitors’ experiences—especially students.

The educational role of museums has increased worldwide in recent decades. Museums have created an extensive range of public services, from lectures, guided visits, school programs, and services to ongoing courses, “all of which go beyond mere entertainment towards a free choice learning and shaping of cultural identities” (Xanthoudaki, 2002).

Cemeteries, especially the oldest and most historical ones, can also be considered museums of cultural heritage, since they are full of personal values and intangible assets. Because of this, some cemeteries have lost that characteristic feeling as sites of sadness, and have truly become sites of memory (Nora, 1993).

Cemeteries such as Paris’s Père-Lachaise receive millions of visitors per year due to the high number of notorious people buried there, such as the Irish writer Oscar Wilde, the Italian painter Amadeo Modigliani, and the North American singer Jim Morrison. Père-Lachaise has become part of the tourist guide, and is being recognized for its historical and artistic value.

In South America, it is already a practice to use cemeteries as cultural sites, such as the Medellin San Pedro Museum in Colombia, the Presbitero Maestro Cemetery in Lima, Peru (the first cemetery to become a museum in South America), and the famous La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In these cemeteries, educational and cultural activities, such as guided tours and cultural events, are well organized and ongoing.

In São Paulo, the Consolação Cemetery is a burial site of several historical notorious personalities, from politicians, artists, industrialists to many others, aside from housing hundreds of funerary artworks.

Since access to culture is the staff’s main focus at a museum site, their actions should not be limited to the physical space occupied by the museum or its collection, since the possibilities of information technology offer the possibility of better programming through museum virtualization.

According to Cremers (2002), the use of digital technologies promises to be an excellent solution for museums. The various types of museum strategies and technological allure, combined with visitor’s attachment to their mobile digital devices, presents a range of possibilities that can contribute significantly to the transformation of education and consequently, to the improvement of learning.

This article intends to examine the adequacy of a mobile application to support self-guided visits to the Consolação Cemetery for educational purposes.

This article’s goal is discuss the application building process.

The following question guided our work: what is the educational importance of a mobile application to users when visiting a historical cemetery?

This work is an explanatory research project that aims to examine the topics or research issues that have barely been studied, or upon which there still remain some doubts (Sampieri, Collado, & Lucio, 2006). Consequently, we have obtained greater familiarity with the issues, allowing us to formulate an unambiguous built hypotheses (Gil, 2010). It is also descriptive, since it specifies the properties and characteristics of certain issues (Sampieri, Collado, & Lucio, 2006), trying to identify possible relationships between the collected variables (Gil, 2010). Thanks to this, it is also a study in correlations, evaluating the relationships between concepts, categories, and variables (Sampieri, Collado, & Lucio, 2006).

The procedure adopted for this project was research that required searching, selecting, synthesizing and analyzing published materials related to the accumulated scientific knowledge about our topic.

Education in museums

The purposes of a museum, according to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), are education, study, and enjoyment (ICOM, 2014). Museum education is a “discipline rooted on the fields of pedagogy, psychology, sociology, museology and communication that goes beyond a didactic and linear transmission of knowledge towards interactive, visitor-oriented teaching and learning” (Xanthoudaki, 2002).

The mission of museums has traditionally been defined by the way they function in actuality and not by their proposed function (or intention). Externally, they are focused to serve society and aid its development through education and entertainment. The constant increase in and conservation of collection objects, as well as their interpretation and public exhibition, are the historical objectives of the majority of museums. In this way, they acknowledge their own collections as a blessing for current and future societies. Weber (2002) points out that the displayed objects are the main reason for visiting a museum; these objects “are reservoirs of knowledge, which not only hold information on artistic or scientific phenomena, but also embody a cultural heritage.”

As an entity, a museum is a creation of the Age of Enlightenment that imagined a possible model of knowledge in any place, anywhere. The Modernist museum was framed to be an encyclopedia, a kind of universal file, and Modernists imagined the communication as a transmission from a withholding knowledge source to a lay audience. However, following the Constructivist theories that give importance to the visitor’s interpretation, museum managers have been abandoning the Modernist meta-narrative approach for multimodal and differing narratives, with more interactive applications and personalized learning processes (Giaccardi, 2004).

The intention of museums is to increase the level of public comprehension, raise the spirit of the visitor, and refine and develop the popular taste. The museological experience is related to the symbolic sphere and to the universal and fundamentally human necessity of preservation and transmission of values for future generations (Loureiro, 2004b). These conditions are aesthetic, or subjective, as the social sense of a museum is not always well established (McLean, 1997).

The present moment favors participatory museums, with desacralized and contextualized environments where the cultural object is proposed and not imposed, and not just a means to a prescribed end. The social aspects of visiting a museum should be part of the museum’s agenda; spaces and collections are no longer considered the most important issue, so that people become the focus of museological processes; after all, a work of art only has value because it was created by humankind for humankind. Any cultural heritage should have a social use and not just be used as decoration (Arajúo, 2004).

Museological cemeteries

The concern about, the necessity of, and the interest in the creation and implementation of public policies for better management of cities has also aided in the preservation of public heritage—among these public heritage sites, cemeteries stand out for their rich cultural heritage. Cemeteries are truly open-sky works of art and exhibition sites that hold great value and importance to a city’s heritage, and are also considered sites of authentic memory (Nora, 1993).

The musealization of cemeteries has become a popular subject in museology—one that is fundamental for the preservation of historical cemeteries which, besides housing tombs of important historical figures, also shelter funerary artworks created by renowned sculptors. Moreover, transforming a cemetery into a site in service of the community recovers its social importance and enables research across many fields, including ethnological, economic, social, and artistic investigations.

Vovelle (1993) pointed out that the place for the dead has changed significantly in the course of time, considering that it was only in the nineteenth century that cemeteries assumed importance in the architectural imagination, at which time the great urban cemetery projects known today appeared. According to the author, the cemeteries are sites full of monuments qualified to pay homage to the family memory and civic respect. Cemeteries repeat the architectural and landscape elements presented in the cities, and either in real or in idealized forms, reproduce the social economic order of living (Ragon, 1981).

According to Carrasco and Nappi (2009) cemeteries present three important patrimonial values related to personal properties. They are of urban environmental, artistic, and historical characteristics.

The history of the Consolação Cemetery in São Paulo, Brazil began in 1829, when the city Councilor Joaquin Antonio Alves Alvim interceded for the construction of a public cemetery. The tradition of burial inside churches was criticized by hygienists, who affirmed the negative health impact of this practice (the city was in the middle of a strong epidemic); not to mention that remains were constantly manipulated to make room for new burials. However, the question of changing the burial site was so controversial that after thirty years, the proposal of Alvim had still not been enacted. (Martins J., 2008).

In 1855, the high part of Consolação was chosen for the construction of the first public cemetery of the city of São Paulo. The high altitude of the location, the direction of the winds, and the great distance from other parts of the city were all taken into consideration. On August 15th, 1858, the Consolação Cemetery was inaugurated, and was the only cemetery in the city until 1893. Over the years it had gone through several changes to attend to the population demand. (Martins J., 2008).

The Consolação Cemetery possesses a vast green area amid the uproar of Rua da Consolação. There the visitor faces simple tombs, poorly decorated, but housing the mortal remains of notorious personalities such as Monteiro Lobato, Tarsila do Amaral, Mario de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade, Marquesa de Santos, Luiz Gamma, and several others. And, dividing the space, there are also fabulous funerary artworks shaped by famous sculptors such as Victor Brecheret, Galileo Emendabilli, and Bruno Giorgi, ordered by the most powerful families of the city. With the expectation to extend their social position after death, these families invested in genuine cemiterial monuments (Osman; Ribeiro, 2007). A very representative example of this idea of maintenance of social status after death in the Consolação Cemetery is the immense mausoleum of the Matarazzo family, located by the entrance of Rua Mato Grosso, considered to be the largest mausoleum in Latin America. The work of Luigi Brizzolara, the monument is equivalent to a three-story building and possesses a rich set of bronze sculptures.

Santana (2016) states that “cemeteries present great potential as both cultural and educational institutions and dissemination of historical-documentary and artistic value properties.” The author points out that since the 1930s, the Brazilian Federal Agency for Cultural Heritage Protection (IPHAN) has been putting cemeteries or elements of cemeteries based on their architectural importance, history of buried notorious personalities, and landscape significance under government trust.

The process of entrusting Consolação, Protestants and Church of the Third Order of Carmo cemeteries at the Board of Defense of the Archaeological, Artistic and Touristic History (Condephaat, State Agency) had begun in 1969, but it wasn’t accomplished until 2005. In 2014, a new Resolution was published in Diário Oficial, a public newspaper of the Executive Government, with an updated list of the graves under government trust. This new Resolution was adopted, taking into consideration the necessity to adequately define the elements under government trust in the Consolação cemetery.

In 1986, the mayor of the City of São Paulo at that time, Jânio Quadros, issued a decree to identify the tombs and mortal remains of people who outstandingly served the Nation, and proposed a correspondent declaration of their historical value. Therefor city hall is obliged to conserve any such abandoned tombs and to ensure that names, headings, date of birth, and date of death are legible on the tombstone. City hall is also obliged to take on the cleaning of the tombs and gardens built by the government in honor of the memory of these important citizens.

Museum information

In terms of access to culture, we can say that traditional museums are passive institutions waiting to be visited and not going to meet their public. And, in terms of access to their contents, (collections), the necessity of being inside a physical space makes it literally difficult to access, in a time when everything has become virtual (Loureiro, 2004b). Access can be understood as democratization, which in the case of museums means to open the doors of their collection to the public. Democracy can also be understood as the possibility of the public, or the necessity of the public, to determine the objective of museums (McLean, 1997).

Providing information can be considered one of the primordial functions of museum. The objectives of museums were more centered on their collections, as far as acquisition, conservation, and exhibition of objects are concerned. Now, the emphasis is put mainly on the information, rather than on the objects. The myth that the object speaks for itself has been dispelled—we understand that the meaning of an object is learned and established by the context— and visitors consider this information very important for appreciating the displayed objects (Schweibenz, 1998).

The museum’s focus has changed from the knowledge to the meaning of the objects, in such a way that visitors see the object as a means and not an end in itself. As far as the works of art are concerned, they are appreciated by the expression and idea that they represent, beyond its formal characteristics (Pierroux, 1998).

Museums’ orientation as information provider has recently modified the ways of understanding the museum, which tends to be increasingly interactive by focusing on their ability to provide resources for the users, not just buying and storing original works of art (Pierroux, 1998). As informational devices, museums produce and process information extracted from the items of their collections in order to generate new information (Loureiro, 2004b).

At a time when it is acknowledged that there is a lack of culture in society, the demand to increase museums’ visitation rates and also to make museums accessible and appealing to the public has increased, since we know that much of the population is not interested in museums and considers them unnecessary. For this reason, museums should re-think their functions and be closer to their market (Loureiro, 2004a). Here, we mean market in the propaganda sense, where the public would be the consumers or customers needing social and cultural necessities.

According to Martins M. C. (2008), in order to receive visitors with different expectations, a museum must have a cultural mediation with its public, which “means informing, making them to perceive what we should call ‘cultured codes’ but by other means,” providing an aesthetic and “esthetic” experience. Dewey (1974) observes that the experience alone only becomes “aesthetic” when it involves cognition, affection, and life, and “esthetic” when it allows the visitor a dialogue with the work of art, pulling them out of anesthesia, moving their body, and touching their sensibility. The mediation is, in this sense, is a communication strategy with an educative aspect, contemplating interventions in the museum context, aiming at establishing contact between the displayed objects and the knowledge that comes from them (Desvallées, Mairesse, & Icom, 2010).

One of the most important points to enhance the visitor experience is the existence of information about the objects. If the visitor knows something about the object they are observing, a little bit of data will be enough to complement their knowledge and stimulate their intellect. If the visitor does not have any knowledge about the object, any information will be welcome to clarify the reason why that object is being exhibited. Without information, everything will be treated as mere entertainment, making the visit much less attractive than what it could be if the educational side came together with the entertainment one. This is true of art museums, although it can also be applied to other kinds of museums. A work of art is often less comprehensible than, for example, historical objects. If there is no information on the object, then to a layperson, the work of art can only have an aesthetic value, which can be questioned out of the context. Some authors emphasize that museums should pay more attention to information than to objects, since communication is the key for understanding the museum objects. Many visitors do not enjoy museums they way they could, due to lack of information; if the visitor has the information beforehand, their visit would be more likely to meet their initial expectations (Schweibenz, 1998).

Technology supporting visitors

Museums understand the importance of visitors, and creating nuanced ways of communicating with them. This is to facilitate the understanding of information, collaborate on its meaning, and act as a mediator between the public and its desired knowledge. This interactivity is one of the best ways to place objects in service of the idea behind an exhibition, and to establish communication with that knowledge. For all its playful characteristics, technology informs and entertains at the same time. A non-directive pedagogy that offers visitors the chance to participate in the processes, or to acquire information, enhances their knowledge. Several communication techniques have been applied, among them technology information devices, which aim to make transforming social practices more attractive, and to motivate the visitor while transmitting information (Brave, Cazelli, & Alves, 2005).

Growth and improvement of the cyberspace have brought along a greater connection of human beings to themselves, diminishing the excluded class and increasing access to all people, who can use it in a passive and a unidirectional way, or in a dialogic and an interactive way (Lévy, 1998).

Naturally, museums are multimedia establishments that explore other media besides objects. These media can be photography, sound recording, films, reenactments, exhibitions, sensory activities, interpretation of customs, etc. In this way, objects can be placed in their context to facilitate a public understanding of their social function, and their importance and history. Digital technologies allow the mass diffusion of this information, enabling people who would never go to a museum to enjoy its content. Museums as multimedia institutions are not characterized only by their exhibitions, but also by their intangible elements—their methods, ideas, and actions (Alsford, Rabinovitch, 2003).

Virtual museums, as far as information technology is concerned, provide curators and museologists new ways to exhibit objects, activate emotional mechanisms, and use other forms of references, generating a new chain of knowledge. Information technology can help museums create new communicative and epistemological ways of relating that lead to a new model of museum (Giaccardi, 2004).

With all these excellent aspects of an in-person visit, the virtual visit to a website or a museum application has to be prepared and adapted considering some of these points and many others specific to the virtual site.

The experience of a museum visitor can be a mixture of an in-person visit with a virtual visit, each one serving to supply different necessities and desires with advantages and disadvantages. From the historical perspective of a museum, the exhibition of the work of art is what would entice a person to visit it—it is this experience, of being in front of an authentic artwork, which is lost in the virtual world.

Digital technology is used by museums as part of both communication and educational strategies, providing support to educators and visitors in the construction of cultural meaning (Chryssoulaki, Bounia, Andriopoulou, 2012). Traditional museums used to have scientific and educational functions; initially inseparable, they later separated, and are now being reunited by digital technologies (Hawkey, 2004).

An example of this interactive technology is support for the digital device; a fixed computer screen closer to the displayed object, or pieces of portable equipment that present information on what is being observed. We can provide two examples. First, a visitor contemplating a work of art only with the information provided on a small label by its side. The main information is name of the author, date, heading, and the materials or techniques used to make the work of art. With this data, the visitor will try to remember other works of art from the artist, or from which period it was produced. If the work of art is abstract, the title can help communicate what the author’s idea was. If the visitor manages to make some connections, they will feel more comfortable regarding what the artwork is contemplating. The work of art is no longer only pretty, ugly, interesting, graceless, or any another empty qualification. Labels can also contain a short text that helps to contextualize or explain the artwork, deepening the understanding of the work of art.

In another situation, a visitor encounters the data with an interactive digital device with no linear navigation, where they will have, according to their curiosity and interface possibilities, access to much more information. This interface must be structured in such a way as to stimulate the interest in knowing, but not intervene much in the tour visitor is taking. Digital technology makes possible several forms of navigation, and visitors can choose the one most suitable to fulfill their curiosity. This type of interactivity instigates cognition and desire for knowledge. It is a reciprocal possibility; the object makes the visitor look for more information, and the more the visitor knows about the object, the more they want to contemplate it, to try to make or to visualize the connection made using the supporting material. Devices with good interfaces motivate visitors to access other relevant information for their visit. It is important that visitors should not spend more time looking at the device than contemplating the objects.

People who are in the physical museum space normally interact with their smartphones or tablets to help them during their visit. This practice is known as “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD), a term created in 2009 by Intel, the computer processors manufacturer, when they noticed that some employees used their own devices and not the ones supplied by the company. This practice is of great value to museums, as they do not need to invest in equipment purchases to lend or to rent to visitors anymore. They also benefit from the easiness of app installation (applications to smartphone or tablet)  that can enrich the visitor experience with maps of the galleries, connecting education and interpretation from inside or outside the museum. Moreover, this equipment can take pictures or record videos that are immediately posted to social networks, bringing visibility to the museums’ actions. Increasingly, people want to be connected to their social networks all the time, and in all places (Johnson, Adams, Becker, Freeman, 2013).

Location-based service is another technology that can be used in mobile devices to accurately define the visitor’s position. This technology is activated by Wi-Fi access points, GPS, or RFID tags, and is capable of determining a location with sufficient precision, even in closed environments, and supplying up-to-date information on what is related to a specific site. These technologies can help guide visitors in the space, directing them to exhibitions or objects that match their preferences, or suggesting digital tours and materials or other digital resources to interact with. Museums and their programmers are discovering that the services based on localization in a museum site can speed up the cultural experience of a visitor in memorable and significant ways (Johnson, Adams, Becker, Freeman, 2013). Portable multimedia guides with this technology make the visitor follow predetermined tours, or help to personalize their visit, enabling them to access information about the object on display (Othamn et. al, 2010). The authors affirm that these devices considerably increase visitor engagement with the exhibition, being much more efficient than other ways to present information on the object, and also increasing the knowledge and understanding acquired by challenging and stimulating visitors.

Mobile application construction for self-guided visits to the Consolação Cemetery

Museums understand that providing information on their collection is one of the best strategies to improve the experience of visitors. In exhibitions, it is important to have materials at the visitor’s disposal that assist with understanding the meaning contained in each work of art, such as brochures, catalogs, equipment for research, etc. The scientific, historical, or artistic objects, whether authentic or not, are isolated from their  original environment, and therefore they need to be explained so that visitors can understand their history, meaning, and context.

In the specific case of a cemetery, the “exhibition” is of tombs, considered to be funerary works of art and/or of notorious people buried in them, all of which are in an open-air environment. As in a history museum, objects are dislocated from their original context—the tomb presents the memory of the person buried, but not their history. An analogy made by Cremers (2002) exemplifies this, saying “you can display a spoon, but not the meal; you can show your card of the game, but not a game of cards.”

The most common way to present these explanations is through a text that, according to the same author, presents some problems with erudite language; perspective of the author or curator; and inappropriate placement. Studies indicate that just over half of the texts are read, and less than that are remembered. The author still remembers that, if the text is thoroughly read, the visitor spends more time reading than observing the object.

In cemeteries, there are some additional difficulties in placing a text at every important tomb: unlike objects displayed in a museum gallery, the tombs cannot be rearranged, and many times, do not have a good place for a label with text. Moreover, because it is an open-air site, it can have problems with lighting or bad weather, which makes it impossible to safely place electronic equipment.

Another way to provide information to visitors is handing pamphlets or printed catalogs that can provide, for example, the map of the site. This is always useful, and can be taken by visitors as a research material or souvenir.

The Consolação Cemetery already provided visitors with a pamphlet, but limited space restricted the placement of information to 80 tombs out of approximately 6,200. The map that is on this pamphlet is a stylized rendering of the squares and streets of the location. However, there are many more streets and squares than the ones mentioned on the map, and as the cemetery has grown over time, the streets, squares and land numbers have not always followed a clear logic, transforming the search for a tomb into a very complicated task.

To attend to all the demand mentioned above, and to help visitors, a mobile application has been developed under the agreement signed between the Funeral Service of São Paulo and Fundação São Paulo, sponsor of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica of São Paulo (PUC-SP). The focus was to conduct a research project that aims to innovate on the management and service model of the Funeral Service, as well as survey and evaluate the funerary artworks that exists in the Consolação Cemetery. Among other things, this would target the promotion of scientific and cultural projects that involve management participation, in order to give appropriate importance to the original funerary artworks heritage, and to the preservation and disclosure of the memory of the city. This project received the name Memória e Vida.

The development process contemplated the following stages:

  • Making an inventory of tombs of historical and artistic interest;
  • Self-guided tour map;
  • Bibliographical research on distinguished personalities and/or on authors of the funerary works of art;
  • Photographing tombs;
  • Geo-localization of the tombs;
  • Information architecture and data modeling;
  • Selection of application technology;
  • Construction and application testing.


The most valuable asset of a museum is its collection. To enable the Consolação Cemetery in becoming a musicological site, we have started our study by the tombs under government trust. Museum cataloging work is extremely important for the institution to better understand its collection, keep it documented ,and make it available for consultation of interested researchers. However, this is an activity that needs constant work to avoid outdated data.

To elaborate on the catalog spreadsheet of Consolação Cemetery tombs, we have used the information found in the 2014 publication of Condephhat—the responsible State Agency for the Preservation of Historical Heritage—regarding the tombs with artistic value (funerary artworks) under the government trust and the survey of notorious personalities made by the commission selected by the Decree nº 22593/86 issued during the mandate of the mayor of the city of São Paulo, Jânio Quadros.

Besides the selected tombs on these two sources, the well-known “Popular Saints” and “Notorious Personalities” in the Consolação Cemetery had also been cataloged. “Notorious Personalities” are the ones considered both artistically and historically important, but had not been considered by Condephaat to be under government trust nor by the Decree of 1986, as well as people with remarkable histories, normally related to the city of São Paulo. These are the “Popular Saints”; people who because of their personal history, or, just fortuitously, had their tombs cared for by those wishing to do good. Out of 6,200 tombs, 308 had been considered as having museological importance.


Bibliographical research from the sites, as well as historical data regarding the historical and notorious personalities and popular saints, was made available in the internet. We have chosen not to include any academic research, so that the texts would be short but objective for a broad public. These entries, with up to 300 words, are available for the application user.

Key words (tags) were chosen from the text to facilitate the searches made by the site or application users. The use of words that characterize notorious personalities or funerary works of art were adopted as criterion to define the “tags”; we have used activities, ideologies, historical facts, and institutions that have considerably taken part in their life. Regarding the funerary work of art, the selected key words characterize the type of work of art and the material used in the tombs.  For example, it is possible to filter poets, musicians, tombs with chapels or mausoleums, work of art in bronze, etc.


The following images have been captured from the cataloged tombs:

  • Frontal;
  • Diagonal;
  • Family name (if there is any);
  • Names of the buried people (if known);
  • Details of the name of the person (when the tomb is classified as Historical or Notorious Personality);
  • Details of the artistic elements (when the tomb is classified as Funerary Work of Art).

For the first version of the application, we decided to use only the frontal image of the tomb, and the user visual localization. Consequently, the user does not need to access the internet network data or the Wi-Fi. The remaining images are available at the cemetery site.

Geo-localization of the tombs

A mobile application has been developed for researchers to support to the development of the application, which made it possible to get the geo-localization of each tomb in the GPS of the device.

Curatorship for tour topics

The planned tours have been organized with importance given to both spontaneous visitors and academic ones. For instance, the “20 must-see” was designed for visitors with little knowledge of the site and the existing collection, such as tourists.

Visiting guide tour maps:

  • 20 must-see
  • Funerary art – important sculptors
  • Funerary art – unknown author
  • Architectural Periods
  • Modernists
  • Politicians – Empire
  • Politicians – Republic
  • Industrialists, cofee growers, and freelancers
  • Artists, intellectuals, public notorious personalities
  • Urban histories

Tours have been presented at the Cemetery plant, allowing accurate indication of each cataloged tomb, with longitude and latitude identification, enabling visitors to take their own tour.

Information architecture and data modeling 

The following files were created:

  • Land files
  • Grantee files
  • Burial files
  • Tomb files

Out of these files, the following database has been created to be used in the application, with the following fields:

  • Catalog file number
  • Classification (notorious personality/funerary work of art)
  • Tours
  • Search field (file number, heading, tags)
  • Tags
  • Geo-localization
  • Heading (family, artist)
  • Personality (entry, municipal decree, funerary work of art, artist, under government trust, street/square, land)
  • Must-see (yes/no)

We have created the following paths to access information:

  • Search for names and key-words
  • Predetermined tours
  • By localization

Application technology

The ideas are based on trends listed by the New Media Consortium that conducts research on emergent technologies for education and also for museums (NMC, 2016).

In a time where information is being delivered to individuals based on their needs and behaviors, personalization has become an important characteristic of educational experiences. Personalization possibilities have expanded with the evolution of museums, now comprehending the digital presence. Standardized tours have become less interesting, since people wish for experiences more tailored to their own interests. Museums should elaborate strategies to access the visitors in their comfort zones, not only to satisfy their need for information, but also to stimulate the exploration and interpretation of that information. This also includes recognizing the devices that visitors bring with them during the visit (a BYOD strategy). Applications produced for museums can enhance visitor experiences by providing more comprehensive materials and contextual information. Instruments with geo-localization capacity integrated into the application enable tracking and improve the user experience. Museums can take advantage of the intelligent localization potential to personalize visitor’s experiences, enhancing the educative value (Freeman et al., 2016).

Because the cemetery is large, with many tombs difficult to find, we have prioritized the geo-localization of both tomb and user.

Application availability

The application Consolação Cemetery Guide is available for free download in the app stores for mobile Google Store and Apple Store.

Analysis and considerations

The purpose of this article is to determine the relevance of the application to support self-guided visits to the Consolação Cemetery, focusing on the educational effect for its users.

Cemeteries that shelter historical tombs of notorious personalities or funerary works of art are truly open-air museums, and as museums, they have an educational function. This has been the main objective of museums for a long time, more important than the collection preservation—tombs, in this case—therefore, providing information has become a priority.

Analyzing the educational function of schools and museums, Alderoqui (2011) says that “both in school and in museum, we can teach, show, exhibit, communicate, display and know ourselves. But… both institutions shelter different logic and actors. The author says that “we cannot forget that visiting a museum can constitute a possibility of addressing some contents that do not take part of the formal curriculum, that is, those contents that the school does not teach; questions of the extraordinary.”

Museums visitors were classified by Falk (2013) into five types: 1) “Explorers”; people who do not have a specific interest and hope the exhibition shows something that calls their attention and enhances their knowledge; 2) “Facilitators”; people who are in a group and want to help the others to have a good experience and learn on site, for instance, a parent in a family; 3) “Professionals or Collectors”; people who have a strong connection with the museum’s content, either for professional reasons or as a hobby; 4) “Tourists”; people who visit museums because they consider them important; and 5) “Researchers”; people looking for a contemplative spiritual or refreshing experience, a refuge from day- to-day tasks.

For all these types of visitors, the ability to find information enables them to have an experience so rich that it remains in their memory even after their visit, as a pleasant moment, or especially as acquired knowledge. Falk (1992) explains that the experience of visiting a museum considers “everything that comes from the very first moment the person thinks about going to a museum, the visit itself to beyond the visit, when the museum experience remains only in memory.” To a spontaneous visitor, the one who decides to go by their own account to an exhibition of interest, the visiting experience initiates at the time the person first thinks about visiting a cultural program. It continues into the visit proper and after, when searching for information on the objects seen at the museum, and finishes only when the visit fades from memory. In a visit organized by a school,  a previous visit is on the professor’s mind, while other moments are both on the visitors’/students’ and professor’s mind.

In these contexts, we verified that the application fulfills its purpose for the different types of visitors.

Searches for key words privilege personal interests (“musicians,” “poets,” “chapels,” etc.,) and serves explorers, facilitators, professionals, and researchers. Searching for the name of a buried notorious person or the author of the funerary work of art is also of great value to this public.

To verify the effectiveness of the application, we understand that further researches focusing on interviews with users will be necessary.


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Cite as:
Padula, Roberto, Renato Folla and David de Oliveira Lemes. "Mobile application to enhance the visiting of a cemeterial museum space: Technology for education and culture." MW17: MW 2017. Published March 12, 2017. Consulted .

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