Auckland's 'Day of Death' at Waikumete Cemetery

It's being heralded as Auckland's "Day of Death" - the chance for members of the public to revel in the macabre by taking in the sights at the Southern Hemisphere's biggest cemetery.

Waikumete Cemetery is holding its first open day today, until 4.30pm, including a grave-digging demonstration and a tour of the crematorium.

The free event also offers tutorials on natural burials, grave cleaning and the burial practices of different cultures.

For those who are less interested in the practical side of death, there's also a chance to find a famous person's grave, or learn about the influenza epidemic of 1918.

There will also be food stalls, music and much more.

"Waikumete Cemetery is a fascinating place," says cemetery manager Roscoe Webb.

"The open day is the first of its kind at Waikumete and will provide the public with a chance to really get behind the scenes. I'm hoping it will help demystify how a cemetery works."

Mr Webb himself will be talking about natural burials.

The cemetery, located off Great North Rd in Glen Eden, opened in 1886 and covers 108ha. It is the largest burial ground of influenza victims in New Zealand.

Tips for a great cemetery visit:

•If you have a relative buried here you can get help to find the grave. Before you come, find the search engine using the phrase 'west burial and cremation records' at aucklandcouncil.govt.nz, search the database, and then print out the resulting record and bring it along to the open day.

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•Auckland Museum will have portable digitisation kiosks on site allowing you to search the Online Cenotaph, lay a virtual poppy against a person's name and contribute to the database. You will also be able to digitise your family's war-related items, so bring along medals, diaries, letters and more to be uploaded to the relevant service person's record for future generations to remember.

•To read the transcriptions of the vast majority of Waikumete's headstone inscriptions visit Ancestry, find the NZ cemeteries collection and then search under Waikumete Cemetery. Ancestry will have researchers available on the day to give people access to their research database.

•The full programme of the day's activities is available on the event listing on the Waitakere Ranges Local Board Facebook page.

•Dogs are welcome at the cemetery provided they are on a lead and under control.

•The cemetery will be closed to private cars on the day to ensure people's safety. To get to the open day, take the train to Glen Eden. Or bring your bike. Parking will be available at Glen Eden Primary School or on side streets. A free shuttle bus service will operate within the cemetery on the day to help people get around.

- NZ Herald

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