Today’s story begins in a crowded market in New Delhi, India in the mid-1960s. Martha Ramsay of Bristow, Virginia had just purchased three handcrafted round brass trays and a basket of peaches.

“I was walking through the market, carrying these heavy trays and the fruit when I heard a ringing in my ear,” she wrote in an online post. “I turned around and saw a king cobra sitting on a man’s shoulder right next to me.”

Being a calm and calm woman, she threw the peaches and trays in the air and ran for her life. “The man ran too! It was chaos,” recalls Ramsay, who allowed me to share his story. When the scene died down, she returned to collect her trays and fruit.

Nearly 60 years later, the brass trays hang in her home, a reminder of that poignant encounter. For her three adult sons, however, the trays meant nothing. They might as well have been trinkets picked up at Pier One Imports. That is until Ramsay posted a photo and the tale on Artifct, a new online platform for those who want to preserve the stories behind their stuff for future generations.

Part family museum, part storage locker, part scrapbook, Artifcts (Artifcts.com) allows those who love their memories to preserve them in a shareable digital collection. Really motivated people can also upload audio or video files.

Think of times when your parents or grandparents told you stories, and you didn’t pay attention. This site would solve that.

“We’re ending the mess and solving the mystery,” Heather Nickerson said. She and her co-founder Ellen Goodwin, both former CIA agents, publicly launched the platform last August. Today, nearly 900 members have collectively “artifacted” more than 3,000 objects. Costs range from free to download five artifacts to $89 per year to download unlimited articles. It is much cheaper than a storage unit.

“The trays are a perfect example of how memories tied to objects help define a life,” Nickerson said, adding that once Ramsay’s sons learned the story of the cobra, they each wanted a tray. .

Now I’m not telling you this to add to your list of excuses for clinging to things, but rather to share an alternative to clinging to real things when what you really want to preserve are memories. .

Probably like you, I had a few questions for Nickerson.

Question: Why is Artifcts missing an A?

Answer: We wanted to redefine artifacts not just as ancient or historically significant objects, but as anything that has meaning or value, and because to get an intellectual property approved by the U.S. Patent Office, you can’t name it with an everyday word, so we made one up.

Q: How could two nice CIA agents like you start a digital vault like this?

A: We are not your typical contractors. Ellen and I worked as intelligence analysts for the CIA for 10 years. Like most CIA guys, we’re driven and share a mad desire to collect data. We were both recruited into different jobs and lost touch; then, a few years ago, we ran into each other at the Houston airport. I told him about this idea that I had had.

Q: Where did the idea come from?

A: My mother passed away suddenly in 2016, at the age of 65. She had an estate plan, so her financial affairs were in order, thankfully, but her affairs were overwhelming. I remember sitting on the floor of her closet in tears because I had no way of knowing what she would want me to keep. I wanted to hold on to what mattered, but I had no way of knowing what mattered. Some people put sticky notes on the back of keepsakes saying where they came from or which child should get it, but the stories aren’t passed on. I figured there had to be a better way.

Q: What are your members saving virtually?

A: Things they don’t want in the house but still want to remember: a special piece of children’s art, an old letter jacket (better a picture of the jacket with a caption you can easily visit , than the actual jacket in a box in the basement). They also upload images of items they want to keep but chronicle, such as jewelry, family recipes with a photo of the dish and the cook, travel memorabilia (those brass trays), and home decor. holidays, often filled with nostalgia.

Q: Does it help people declutter?

A: Half the time we find that once someone has stored an item and retained its meaning online, they have abandoned it. Others upload photos and descriptions of items they keep and plan to pass on. Some use the platform to send files to their insurance companies, or to link to their estate plans, trusts or wills.

Q: Who can see the collection?

A: Because of our experience at the CIA, we understand the importance of confidentiality. When members log in, their default setting is private. We encourage them to provide contact information for at least two past contacts to ensure their collection is not lost in cyberspace. Beyond that, they can make the collection visible to whoever they want.

Q: What if something happened to you or Ellen?

A: We don’t plan to go anywhere for a long time, but we have a strategic plan, council of advisors, and resources set aside to ensure that Artifacts can continue to grow and overtake us.

Q: What if the kids (i.e. old contacts) don’t want it?

A: Whoever inherits the account can decide to keep the virtual collection, pass it on to someone else, or download the information, export it, and store it. Or they can close the account and never visit again. However, if you have proactively stored your significant items online, you have at least opened the door to the possibility that the next generation will know the stories behind those items.

Marni Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle, including “Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Households Become One”. Contact her at marnijameson.com.