Staff researches the history of the people buried in Oakwood Cemetery. Early citizens helped build the culture of the city, and the Capitol of Texas. Digital exhibits are published quarterly, often in collaboration with community groups and individuals.
Exhibits include digital maps, audio, photos, video, biographies, legacies, and more. We expect this scholarship will continue for a very long time with the help of staff and volunteers. Because the exhibits are digital, we have the opportunity to add and correct the information as we learn. Please contact us if you encounter any errors or omissions.
- Reunir: Historia del Día de los Muertos
Reunir: Historia del Día de los Muertos is a digital history exhibit about the history and traditions of the Day of the Dead holiday as celebrated in Austin, Texas, Mexico, and Latin America. This beloved tradition brings family and community together to celebrate the lives of our ancestors, family, friends, pets, and public figures. The Latin American tradition of the Day of the Dead is distinct from other cultural practices of remembrance in welcoming the return of the ancestors to reunite families once a year.
Reunir, digital exhibition
- To Change: Austin Geography and History
To Change shows Austin as a place with beautiful natural resources that has attracted people for over 16,000 years. These people created the culture and communities that define Austin. With colonial settlement and land development, economic and social factors did not create equitable experiences or opportunities for all its residents. This exhibit looks at land use, demographics, and family histories. The exhibit shows the process of digitizing information about the 23,000 "residents" buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
To Change, digital exhibition
- To Carve: Monument Shapes and Symbols
To Carve looks at the monuments and markers of the Oakwood Cemetery. Attention is given to the shapes, symbols and carved details found in the different types of stone within the cemetery grounds. These functional works of art are also interpreted and paid tribute to by Austin artists through different mediums of expression.
To Carve, digital exhibition
- To Emancipate: From Slavery to Freedom
To Emancipate shares stories of the lives of African Americans buried in Oakwood Cemetery, and the impact they had on the Austin community. To Emancipate includes a timeline that contextualizes slavery in Austin within a greater world history. The accomplishments of Black Texans are highlighted through biographies, photographs, oral histories, and family recipes.
A digital reproduction of the George Washington Carver Museums exhibit “The African American Presence in 19th Century Texas” contextualizes the men, women and children buried in Oakwood Cemetery whose lives were affected by slavery. 360* VR tours are included of the Carver exhibit and the “Historic Colored Grounds.” A new GIS map of Freedom Communities in the Austin area is included.
To Emancipate, digital exhibition
- To Fika: Austin's Swedish Cultural Heritage
In Swedish culture, fika is a coffee and snack break with friends and colleagues. It is essential to fika every day. The Swedish Hill Neighborhood is adjacent to Oakwood Cemetery. Hundreds of Swedes and their descendants now rest for eternity just steps from where they originally built homes, worked, and attended schools and churches.
To Fika, digital exhibition
- To Liberate: The Watson Chateau
To Liberate reveals the cultural history of the Watson Chateau, believed to have been built in 1853 by Margaret Neville Bowie, Rezin Bowie’s wife. Subsequent owners included doctors, land speculators, attorneys, farmers, a hairstylist, a secretary, and lastly, a gay couple. Arthur P. Watson and Bob Garrett lived together at The Chateau for almost 50 years, hosting parties for the elite of Austin and more quietly for the city’s gay men. The house still stands but is rapidly deteriorating.
To Liberate, digital exhibition
- To Relate:
Indigenous Views on Native American History in Texas
To Relate includes maps and timelines of Native American homelands of tribes that were Indigenous to Texas over many centuries. Some were Native to areas within Texas long before European settlement, some tribes were in Texas because of American expansion. The word “Texas” comes from an Indigenous word meaning ally or friend, as many tribes were collaborative with one another and settlers.
To Relate, digital exhibition
- To Serve: Honoring Military Veterans Buried in Austin's Cemeteries
To Serve looks at Texans’ long history of military service, identifying local veterans who served in conflicts from the War of 1812 to the present. Approximately 3,500 military veterans buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Oakwood Cemetery Annex, Evergreen Cemetery, Plummers Cemetery, and Austin Memorial Park Cemetery have been identified so far. This project features videos, photographs, digital maps, and other multimedia content dedicated to honoring the men and women who served their country and to preserve their histories.
To Serve, digital exhibition
To Serve: Cemetery Symbolism and Veterans Monuments with Tui Snider video
- To Elevate:
Huston-Tillotson University, Austin's HBCU
To Elevate demonstrates the legacy of Huston-Tillotson University, an HBCU (Historic Black College/University) in Austin, Texas. The exhibit tells the story of those that planted the seeds of Huston-Tillotson’s beginnings, those that carefully tended and spent their life’s energy on managing, improving, and building upon HT, as well as those that continue to pass the torch onward in the elevation of its mission.
To Elevate, digital exhibition
Huston-Tillotson University website
- To Remember/Recordar: Grief, Loss, and Love across Cultures
To Remember considers the various types of grief, loss, and love across cultures. This exhibit shows many different forms of remembrance including burial and funeral practices, memorial anniversaries, cemetery maps, and genealogy research. “To Remember” features photo, video, oral history, and digital map content to describe how cultural traditions help us hold the space for grief and loss.
To Remember, digital exhibition
- All Together Here: Discovery and Remembrance of the Oakwood Burials
All Together Here interprets the archaeology project at the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel. During the rehabilitation of the Chapel in 2016, there was a painful discovery: the Chapel had been constructed over preexisting burials.
All Together Here, digital exhibition
All Together Here, symposium website
All Together Here, symposium session videos published on the Parks and Recreation Department YouTube Channel
- To Vote: Austin's Suffragists
To Vote recognizes Austin's suffragists in 2020 during the 100th, 55th, and 45th anniversaries of all women gaining the right to vote in America. Many people who worked hard for that right are buried in Austin’s municipal cemeteries.
To Vote, digital exhibition
- To Hear: Music and Musicians
To Hear appreciates Austin’s musicians, including the Besserer Orchestra, the Gant Family, Ernest "Ernie" Mae Crafton Miller and Gene Ramey. They played in music halls such as Scholz Garten, Pressler Beer Garden, and the New Orleans Club. John and Alan Lomax were known for traveling the world to record folk music as musicologists.
- Caminar: Tejano History and Mexican American Burials
This exhibition remembers Tejanos and Mexican Americans buried in Oakwood Cemetery, and honors their legacy in Austin, inspired by Danny Camacho's research.
- To Believe: Legacy of Reverend Jacob Fontaine
Featuring videos, photography, digital maps and performances, we explore Black East Austin's historic and contemporary practices of faith and belief, as inspired by Reverend Jacob Fontaine.
- Murder, Mayhem, Misadventure: Save Austin's Cemeteries Fall Tours
Save Austin's Cemeteries annual graveside tours cover the chilling, untimely deaths of “residents” of Oakwood Cemetery portrayed by graveside actors. Tour route and stories vary each year.
Murder, Mayhem and Misadventure, digital tour with video - 2021
Murder, Mayhem and Misadventure, digital tour - 2020
- To Write: Author talks at the Oakwood Chapel
To Write is an ongoing series of online and in-person author talks on books related to the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel and its mission. This series is a collaboration with Save Austin's Cemeteries.
Forget the Alamo by Bryan Burrough, Jason Stanford and Chris Tomlinson
The Museums and Cultural Programs Division of the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Austin hosted an author talk at the outdoor Zilker Hillside Theater in October, 2021. The event was hosted by Laura Esparza, an Alamo descendant as well as the Division Manager for the Parks Department. It was moderated by historian Dr. Andrés Tijerina. The authors discussed how the book came to be, what surprises they encountered, and what accountability for our shared history means.
Barton Creek by Ed Crowell
For an author talk at the Chapel by Ed Crowell on the book Barton Creek, this digital story map shows burials in Oakwood of individuals mentioned in the book whose lives affected Barton Creek.
To Write: Barton Creek, digital exhibit
Cedar Choppers by Ken Roberts
For an author talk at the Chapel by Ken Roberts on the book The Cedar Choppers, this story shows burials in Oakwood of a community whose culture depended on chopping cedar along creeks in West Austin.
To Write: The Cedar Choppers, digital exhibit
The Cedar Choppers website photos, interviews, and songs
The Big Book of the Dead by Marion Winik
For an online author talk by Marion Winik on the book The Big Book of the Dead, this book is filled with remembrances of people, showing how we love, grieve, and grow.
- To Read: Book discussions at the Oakwood Chapel
To Read is an ongoing series of online and in-person discussions on books related to the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel and its mission. Facilitators include volunteers who may be researchers, philosophers, and historians.
The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
An online book discussion on the psychological foundations of death and dying, Summer 2020.
At the Chapel, Dr. Fatemah Keshavarz led a discussion on death, dying, and transitions in Rumi's poetry, Fall 2019.