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Illuminating the Past, and Preserving the Future with Technology: County Home Cemetery in Summit County, Ohio

The County Home Cemetery, located on the land within Summit Metro Parks, has become a focal point where history, archaeology, and cutting-edge technology meet. The collaborative efforts, fueled by a commitment to preserving historical narratives, represent progress in historical exploration and preservation in Akron, Ohio. The historical lineage of the Summit County Home, centered on supporting the marginalized, indigent, and infirm, unfolds over three iterations, reflects changing societal attitudes and care of those less fortunate.

Within this context, we explore Russell Pier’s, of S4 Mobile Laboratories, Capstone Project. As a graduate student pursuing a Master of Applied History and Public Humanities at the University of Akron, Russell aims to deepen the understanding of the County Home Cemetery using innovative solutions from S4 Mobile Laboratories, in collaboration with Summit Metro Parks and The University of Akron.


A Glimpse into Summit County Home's and Cemetery History:

The primary structure of the Summit County Home, often referred to as the County Home, once stood on the site now occupied by the Heather Knolls Nursing and Rehabilitation facility. Operating from 1921 to 1970, it was demolished in 1978. During the 19th and 20th centuries, county homes like this one provided shelter for individuals facing various challenges such as poverty, physical disabilities, illness, mental health issues, and a lack of familial support.

The County Home had two cemeteries associated with it, one of which is now situated within Munroe Falls Metro Park. Although the cemetery's boundaries are marked by fencing, it served as a potter’s field—a burial ground for the unknown or unclaimed deceased. By the time it became part of Summit Metro Parks, few grave markers remained. Despite being maintained and respected by the park district, little is known about the actual layout of the burials.


Collaborative Efforts to Unearth the Mysteries:

Earlier this year, Summit Metro Parks, The University of Akron, and Russell Pier of S4 joined forces in a collaborative expedition dedicated to identifying archaeological cultural resources within the County Home Cemetery. This initiative aims to contribute to education, management, and historic preservation by understanding the region's prehistoric and historic context. The program explores occupation and settlement patterns, bridging the gap between the past and present.


S4's Innovative Solutions:

Contributing to the collaborative effort is Russell Pier, a graduate student at the University of Akron, supported by S4 Mobile Laboratories. Russell's Capstone Project aligns with S4's commitment to cutting-edge solutions in historical research and drawing inspiration and practices from their work with The National Advisory Committee on Residential Schools Missing Children and Unmarked Burials in Canada . The project with Summit Metro Parks employs cadaver dogs, ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and S4’s Subterra Grey technology to discover and identify burial landmarks within the County Home Cemetery.

Pier's project presents an exciting opportunity to utilize noninvasive survey techniques, such as S4’s Subterra Grey, to gain a better understanding of the cemetery within its landscape. This endeavor aims to shed light on the historical significance and layout of the burial ground.


Subterra Grey: Revolutionizing Unmarked Graves Searches:

Subterra Grey, developed by S4, integrates visible and infrared spectroscopy to enhance the effectiveness of unmarked graves searches. Combined with the use of GPR, this technology improves accuracy and provides a comprehensive understanding of subsurface conditions, respecting the sensitivity of historical truths. Russell Pier's project signifies a groundbreaking step in historical exploration and preservation.


Preserving Historical Narratives:

The collaboration between Russell Pier, the University of Akron, Summit Metro Parks, and S4 stands as a significant contribution to Akron, Ohio's historical exploration and preservation. Pier’s Capstone Project, fueled by Subterra Grey's technology, strives to reveal hidden mysteries, and collect valuable data to ensure the preservation of Summit Metro Parks' land for future generations.

As Russell Pier and S4 Mobile Laboratories push the boundaries of historical research and technology, their collaborative efforts explore the past while aiming to preserve its legacy. The County Home Cemetery has become a symbol of resilience, challenging the complexities of history, and demonstrating the importance of continued exploration and understanding aided by the use of technology.


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