Whether it’s a relative’s narration of life experiences, a video of baby’s first steps, or a recipe card with grandma’s coveted oatmeal raisin cookie recipe, Artifcts is a platform that can help you preserve memories in the form of images, audio, video and text.
The concept is simple: choose an object. Take a picture. Add video or audio if you’d like. Write a story in as little as five words. Upload. Keep the memory private or share it publicly.
Artifcts cofounders Heather Nickerson and Ellen Goodwin are businesswomen, world travelers and antique enthusiasts. Their paths first crossed during their time working for the CIA and they have been friends for decades. Nickerson previously served as chief growth and strategy officer of Red Five Holdings, Inc. and as president of Red Five Privacy Labs, LLC. She served the CIA as an intelligence analyst, including as a briefer in a war zone tour in Afghanistan.
Goodwin is a former chief solutions officer of Knoema. With the CIA, she served as an intelligence analyst and spent more than a year as a briefer to a cabinet level official.
The unique spelling of the business name came down to trademark of a standard word (which is tricky) and the founders’ desire to redefine what an artifact is.
“Artifcts you create do not need to be valuable, historically relevant, part of a collection or family heirlooms. An Artifct is anything that has meaning to you that captures a bit of you. Everyone needs a history and you can capture yours through Artifcts,” Nickerson says.
Nickerson got the idea to start Artifcts after her mother passed away.
“My brothers and I wanted to keep what meant most to her to tell the story to the next generation, but we had no clue what that was,” she notes.
Nickerson spent the next five years researching different business concepts and then reached out to Goodwin.
“Ellen and I were both at very similar points in our executive careers, facing a global pandemic and having children at home to home school, and just really questioning what we were doing,” Nickerson says. “We want to be really passionate about what it is we’re doing or building and make our daughters really proud.”
Goodwin says the pair figured out early on in concept development — almost by accident — that Artifcts resonates with people of all ages and backgrounds.
“It’s one thing to have a whole mess of photos, video and audio, but if no one ties them all together, you can’t connect the dots,” she notes. “It was like: here’s my identity. Here’s the art portfolio I’m creating. Here’s the music portfolio. Here’s what I have in my room, please don’t gut it while I’m away at college. This stuff means something to me. But what we figured out was we could very easily create a platform that can bring generations together. And by doing so, we’re actually discovering people are finding sentimental value and can communicate very important things about themselves through a digital means.”
The duo quit their jobs in February 2021, did a beta test launch that May, and went public at the end of August 2021. Artifcts is a Delaware corporation, headquartered in the Washington, D.C., area.
You can choose to privately share your Artifcts with friends and family, and even give them edit control to add more information about an item, such as when or where it was made, who may have owned it in the past, or any other personal connections — ideal for families discussing details about a piece once owned by an ancestor.
While it’s a subscription-based service, you can join, upload and store up to five Artifcts for free. Paid plans allow for additional Artifcts to be stored along with supporting documentation, collaboration between subscribers and even the option of adding friends and family members to your Arti Unlimited account. Concierge packages help take the guesswork out of uploading and documenting. The platform also does not contain advertising.
In addition to personal usage, clients use Artifcts when working with estate lawyers, insurance agents and others. You can even create a QR code to (safely) attach to your Artifcts that can then be read by whoever scans it (public setting) or by requesting access if it’s on a private setting. Artifcts are also transferable to ensure the stories don’t die with their creator.
Nickerson notes that while many families may talk about special pieces or collectibles, they never actually take time to preserve the narratives.
One of her favorite Artifcts stories is about an antique pocket watch. The user’s great-grandfather had written out the history of the timepiece on a little cardboard tag and tied it to the watch.
“This was his way of further preserving the family history and the value of that antique watch,” she says. “But the Artifcts user knows that cardboard tag is not going to last many more generations, so he put it into Artifcts and then shared it with his son who’s going to get that watch one day.”
Artifcts users may also be seeking out this service because they want to document the history and memory of a sentimental item, knowing that they may not be able to keep it physically, or wish to sell it.
“We know from talking with people, from ‘Antiques Roadshow’ to auction houses, that stuff with stories sells better, right?” Goodwin says. “Is it a jacket or was the jacket worn by Bon Jovi, or whomever? Is it a chest of drawers or did it travel across the ocean? We’re finding (the concept) just has all of these tentacles.”
Even though there are numerous inventory apps out there, Goodwin notes that they can be tedious to use and don’t focus on emotional connections.
“We’re hoping that by making it fun and letting people connect and by being warm and cozy, they’ll use it,” she adds.
If you’re unsure about what to upload, you can watch member videos and view any Artifct that is in the public Gallery.
While Artifcts is an ideal platform for preserving antiques, Goodwin also uses the site for documenting visits to national parks. Because you cannot take rocks or sand from these areas, she instead photographs them and uploads them to her account.
“It’s a way for me to help my daughter remember as she gets older,” Goodwin notes.
Artifcts has hosted virtual “Arti Days” and hopes to take the concept on the road in a post-COVID world.
Goodwin said during the test trials for Artifcts, users expressed some doubts about whether or not what they owned constituted anything of value.
“But then what we found was people redefining artifacts. These aren’t conventional artifacts,” she explains. “They won’t go to museums, necessarily. These are human artifacts. This is a museum to humanity. We are human. Here we are. This is the stuff that matters — and that runs the spectrum.”