The University of West Florida and St. Michael's Cemetery


Historic St. Michael's Cemetery is intrinsically linked to the physical and cultural landscape of Pensacola's past. As the oldest and most significant historic site that survives above ground in Pensacola, the cemetery provides an excellent teaching lab. Over the past 15 years approximately 27 departments, institutes, and offices at the University of West Florida have donated in-kind services to support preservation efforts at this outdoor museum and taught students via a number of innovative ways. The public products that result from the partnership between UWF and SMCF benefit the community as a whole. For more on the University of West Florida, visit UWF.


The Archaeology Institute became heavily involved with St. Michael's Cemetery beginning in late 1999 following an especially violent episode of vandalism at the site. What began as an emergency response has evolved into an ongoing commitment to the site. Today the Institute coordinates UWF services as well as those services provided by other community institutions and groups. Institute contributions range from involvement in the development of the cemetery's geographic information system and associated data base of tombstone information to support for a dedicated web server for the SMC GIS.

Building on the drafting of an initial management plan, the Institute provides oversight for conservation projects and public events. Working with Escambia County Master Gardeners (University of Florida IFAS Extension Service), a yearlong botanical survey was layered into cemetery's GIS. Several grant funded conservation projects have resulted in substantial stabilization and preservation of funerary features. UWF archaeology students work with conservators on these projects. Students receive hands on experience that proves invaluable in their professional lives. A remote sensing survey and soil survey project has led to a better understanding of the sub-surface of St. Michael's Cemetery. The historical research component of The Search for the Hidden People of St. Michael's Cemetery Project has also led to the identification of a large number of individuals who lost their lives in Pensacola during the colonial period. Research projects such as the above enhance our understanding of the physical and cultural landscape of our community's past.

The Institute has built on 15 years of experience with St. Michael's Cemetery and leads the Pensacola Area Cemetery Team (PACT). PACT is working with stewards from Pensacola's other 13 historic cemeteries to help these groups build stronger stewardship bases and better manage the historic cemetery resources in their care.

The University of West Florida Division of Anthropology and Archaeology: Documenting the physical and cultural landscapes of Pensacola's Past. To learn more about UWF Anthropology and Archaeology visit the: Division of Anthropology and Archaeology and the Archaeology Institute.


History student at Get in the Spirit daySince 2005, graduate students from UWF have researched approximately 125 individuals interred in St. Michael's Cemetery. Using their skills as historians and archaeologists, the students have utilized a variety of sources to create brief biographies of the men, women, and children who lived and died in Pensacola. Stemming from an effort to raise awareness of the importance of the area's rich past, the research projects have expanded into several larger projects including major research papers, conference papers, local presentations and even several master's theses. In addition to their research, the students have an opportunity to hone their public outreach skills as they present their research at the cemetery's annual Get in the Spirit event. To learn more about UWF's Department of History, go to the Department of History.


Geographers from the University of West Florida surveyed the cemetery using a total station (a precision survey instrument) and survey grade GPS. A GIS of the cemetery was constructed consisting of all graves, tombs, roads, botanical data and other features within the cemetery. This GIS is available as an interactive map at Simply click on any grave in the map for more information. You can also query the database behind the map to search for information about people buried in the cemetery. GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) data has been added to the interactive map that will help reveal information about the location of the "Hidden Peoples of St. Michael's Cemetery." For more information about the resources available, visit Geodata Center


The Florida Public Archaeology Network supports the work of St Michael's Cemetery Foundation and is pleased to partner for the preservation of historic cemetery resources. FPAN has worked with St Michael's on projects such as headstone cleaning workshops, the Compass to Total Station recording training program, the annual Get in the Spirit public day, and in supporting UWF students in cemetery research. To learn more about FPAN's programs around the state, go to Florida Public Archaeology Network.


To learn more about IHMC, visit the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition


To support and enhance management and preservation of St. Michaels Cemetery, researchers from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at UWF designed and implemented methodologies to generate and link a detailed map and cemetery database. The mapping involved a highly accurate global positioning system receiver (GPS) to establish reference points, a total station survey of individual marked graves, borders and fences and recording of grave inscriptions and marker attributes. A total station is a surveying instrument that combines an electronic transit that measures horizontal and vertical angles accurately with an electronic distance measuring device that determines the distance to a target. With the horizontal and vertical angles, the distance to the target, and the GPS coordinates of the set-up point of the total station, the three-dimensional coordinates of the target can be accurately calculated. A total of 22 grave inscription and marker attributes were recorded, including first name, middle initial, last name, suffix, maiden name, date of birth, year of birth, date of death, year of death, birth place, affiliation, sex, age, number of persons per grave (as indicated on marker), marker orientation, marker material, marker preservation (on a five-step scale), design motifs on marker (two largest ones), epitaph, enclosure material, and comment. All geographic and attribute data were imported into a geographic information system (GIS) to produce an accurate digital map and linked database. To verify the correctness and completeness of the map and database, 35 teams of two volunteers each field checked a section of the cemetery with a printed version of the map and database. The map and database formed the basis for the online St. Michaels Cemetery map and are suited to examine architectural trends and influences, historical social issues, evolving funerary customs, demographic trends, and cemetery management matters. The fully interactive map and database will serve archaeologists, historians, geographers, genealogists, geologists, forensic scientists and anthropologists for years to come. The method designed by the UWF researchers and potential applications of the map and database were published in the Journal of the Society for Historical Archaeology.

trenchIn addition. researchers from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at UWF also helped put the cultural landscape of the cemetery in its natural context. They surveyed the topography of the cemetery because topography is a basic foundation of any cultural landscape and at the cemetery must have undergone many anthropogenic changes. Soils were surveyed and mapped because they are also an integral part of the human environment and may have been equally strongly affected at St. Michael's.

Specifically, this part of UWF's support to the preservation efforts at St. Michael's cemetery:

  • Generated a detailed topographic map of the cemetery
  • Systematically described the soils at the cemetery
  • Assessed the anthropogenic disturbance of the surface of the soils
  • Mapped the thickness of the disturbed layers and the topography of the original surface
  • Evaluated the relative age of the disturbance of the surface of the soils

To learn more about our research and programs, visit Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.