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Exclusive articles, interviews, and insights covering downsizing & decluttering, genealogy, photos and other media, aging well, travel, and more. We’re here to help you capture the big little moments and stories to bring meaning and even order to all of life’s collections for generations.
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Artifcts + Travel Go Better Together

Reading time: 4 minutes 

Running a company and a family is hard work. Double the work if your spouse is doing the same. After three years of putting health, safety, and the children first, my dear spouse and I decided enough was enough. Time to pack up and hit the road and find a spot where we could be totally alone and surrounded by nature since we are both avid hikers, campers, and world-wide adventurers.  

Where to? Greenland. Yep, Greenland! Greenland is one of the last bastions of unspoiled wilderness, where boats outnumber cars, and if you time it right, you can bask in 30-degree Farenheit temperatures under the midnight sun during the summer months.  

You can imagine the reaction of our friends and family. Responses ranged from, “You’re going where? Why?” to “Did you mean Iceland?” (Nope, I meant Greenland!) The responses got even more incredulous when we told them we planned to spend the time camping and hiking in a fjord about 90-minutes north of Nuuk, accessible only via boat or seaplane. (We opted for the boat.) 

Let the Mementos and Memories Roll In 

The trip itself was magical and defied any and all expectations.  

We spent four incredible (albeit sometimes rainy) days hiking, exploring, and just being. We discovered wildflowers that we never expected to see, and explored Viking ruins that were steps from our camp. I have yet to find the words to fully describe it all.  

And although we were technically on a digital detox (no wi-fi, no internet, just us and our camp hosts), I couldn’t help but create in my head all the Artifcts I planned to make as soon as I returned to the US. The majestic hunks of glacial ice floating in the fjord, the freshly caught Arctic char, and the rocks. Yes, rocks. All the things that astounded me and left me speechless for the most part, yet none of them were things I could easily take home as mementos. Artifcts would have to become my souvenirs.  

Artifcting My Summer Holiday 

Jetlag aside, one of the first things I did stateside was create Artifcts. (Technically, I started one while waiting in line for the people mover at Dulles International Airport, but that’s a separate story.) I didn’t want to forget a thing, and, as you might imagine, one photo of an iceberg looks a lot like the next unless or until you know the story. And if you don’t know the story, it’s just digital photo clutter! 

I initially created a private Circle of four (us and our hosts) to group and share the Artifcts with a single click and allow the others to contribute their own trip Artifcts and memories. But the Circle quickly ballooned into a private Circle of 20+ as family, friends, and business acquaintances asked for photos and details. I realized my Circle was helping me to share a more meaningful version of my holiday with others than would otherwise be possible! 


Circles: My Travel Memory “Ah Ha!” 

It’s only been three weeks since I’ve been back, but I have already heard from a half dozen people that they’re interested in planning a similar trip after seeing our Greenlandic Adventures Circle.  

I’ve also probably saved myself countless hours sending the same photos and telling the same stories to family who are not always in the same place at the same time.  

My Circle has become my answer to, “How was your vacation?” With a click of a button, I’m able to share the highlights, photos, videos, and details. What is more, I know my memory is fickle, and years from now, I’ll have my Circle to remember all the amazing hikes, sights, and souvenirs from our four fabulous days in the Greenlandic wilderness.  


Intrigued? Feel free to email me at if you want to be added to my Circle. 

Want to make a Circle of your own? Check out our video tutorial 

And finally, special thanks to Anika and Jon Krogh, our fabulous hosts at Camp Kiattua. We’re already dreaming of when we’ll be back.  

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Visiting a Mammoth Artifact, One of the Seven Wonders of the World: Petra, Jordan

The ancient city of Petra, dating back to 800 BC, feels far out of reach for many of us. It’s tucked into the sandstone cliffs of what is known today as the Golden Triangle of Jordan: the red deserts of Wadi Rum—well known as the setting of Star Wars—the Red Sea port of Aqaba, and the ancient city of Petra. In February, I journeyed to Petra from Tel Aviv by bus just to spend a few hours exploring. While I wouldn’t recommend three bursts of 24-hours travel within a one-week period, this time it was well worth the discomfort! 

Rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss-born explorer John Lewis Burckhardt, his original travel journal reveals in vivid details the wonder and perils of his journey to the site, what he found, and the condition, size, and more of this ancient relic. The entirety of Petra is really an artifact in situ, in the traditional sense of the word “artifact.” 

side view of the Treasury, Petra, Jordan

Iconic Petra: "The Treasury," although really, it's a cemetary!

Archeologists have combed through the grounds bit by bit to unravel the complexities and brilliance of its design, solving for riddles such as: 

      • Did they start carving from the top or the bottom? 
      • How did the population survive where there was no ready water source? 

Artifcts Ellen Goodwin's picture of a water channel carved into the cliffside, Petra, Jordan

Residents carved water channels into the cliffside to bring water to holding areas. The stone purifies the water as it trickles through.
      • Why is their representation of God nearly shapeless at the entrance to the city and two dots and a line (eyes and a nose) further in? 

Faceless supreme being, Petra, Jordan, Ellen Goodwin, Artifcts     Supreme being represented with a line and dots, Petra, Jordan, Ellen Goodwin, Artifcts

Early in the city's development, the superior being was not illustrated at all. Later it is represented with two dots for eyes and a line for a nose.
      • What do the camel and riders, the eagles, and other adornments carved into various city elements represent? 
      • How was each city area used, and by whom among the royalty, nobility, and commoners? 
      • And ultimately, what happened to those who once lived here? Why did the city fall to disuse after intruders arrived? 
      • We’re acutely aware that the Artifcts we create here together will reveal far into the future much more about the objects we leave behind and how we lived than ever before. They will tell community histories and personal histories.  

We all need a history, and we hope you’ll discover the power in Artifcting to transform objects of your everyday life into shared pieces of your history.   

Bonus! My Tips for Visting Petra

Should you decide to visit Petra, here are a few of my tips while they are fresh in my mind: 

    1. Unless you are used to deserts or are a camel, visit outside of peak heat season. There’s very little shade and considerable distance on sandy, rocky 3,000-year-old road to travel for a worthwhile visit. When it’s not hot, it can be quite cold. Consider gloves, a puffer jacket, and a turtleneck. 
    2. No matter the time of year, bring extra bottled water for this desert experience. 
    3. Prepare to spend more for a ‘full’ experience. You want an iconic photo of the famed “Treasury” building, which is actually a cemetery, from above? Even though you paid a park entrance fee, you must pay additional cash on site to go up that path. Camel, donkey, and cart rides if you have mobility challenges or are short on time are also extra. 
    4. Do not turnaround at the Treasury. Equally grand sites are much further down path, notably including the Monastery.
    5. You need six hours minimum unless you’re coming from a local location and can easily pop in and out. Overnight would be still better. And ideally you’d have a few days to visit the whole Golden Triangle. 

Happy Artifcting! 


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

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Storied Lighthouses: At Night!

Today's story indulges Artifcts co-founder Ellen Goodwin’s fascination with the stars. She even has an Artifct or two about it. You can read one of them here. If nothing else, just like the act of creating an Artifct, let this story help remind you to take a pause to look up and enjoy the vastness of the universe and the potential within each of us every day to play an oversized role in it from our little slice of the universe. 


Close your eyes.  

Picture a lighthouse.  

Is it hanging out alone on a rocky bluff or stony beach? Is it sun-shiny daytime or deep dark night?  

Would it surprise you to learn that most photographs of lighthouses only show these sentinels by day? Until recently, that is. 

Lighthouses today are largely on private land or public park spaces, both with controlled access. Even with access granted, you have weather, water, and other environmental conditions, including wildlife (Porcupines! No joke. Read the book USA Stars & Lighthouses.), to contend with if you want a close-up view. So logically most of us capture pictures of lighthouses only by day and often by boat or from some distance as in the photo shown in the Artifct Our Cape Cod Whale Tale

We had the good fortune to connect recently with David Zapatka, who has spent his professional life behind the lens of high-powered video cameras that bring the world everything from investigative news from the field to NCAA men's basketball tournaments and the Olympics. Privately, however, David was hooked on photography from the moment he realized his passion would be supported by submissions to his school yearbook, feeding him a constant supply of film and access to the people and places of the moment. 

Access and control - two of the most critical factors in photography. Control is about lighting. David preaches to his students: control - control - control. As for access, well, you know, can you get close to it? The third critical ingredient for David is passion. Conservancy, national history, community, all of these play into David's work to at last capture lighthouses at night, doing the work they were designed for, bringing ships safely to harbor, providing hope in a sea of dark, and reminding us we are infinitely small in this vast universe. 

David is creating a personal legacy in this work. For his kids and grandkids, for all of us, he'll know he left us something special. 

For each lighthouse in his book USA Stars & Lights: Portraits From the Dark David includes the story behind the shoot. Who owns and operates the lighthouse, how did he get access, what were the conditions when he went once (sometimes twice) to get the shot, and for budding photographers, even the technical details. Because there is no hocus pocus or photoshop here. You need to earn every bit of it. 

With no further ado, enjoy these special Artifcts from our friend David Zapatka. 

Jeffrey's Hook, The Little Red Lighthouse, at night with NYC in background

ABOVE: Jeffrey's Hook Lighthouse. Serendipity! Sometimes David comes across lighthouses that have been turned back on. The Little Red Lighthouse of storybook fame many NYC children of the 1960s are familiar with was relit several years ago. While on the Hudson River for another lighthouse shoot, David discovered its resurgence and returned in September 2022 to photograph it at night. Click the image to view the Artifct.


Red and white ringed lighthouse at nightABOVE: Assateague Lighthouse. Often shooting lighthouses at night involves critical timing. Sometimes you can't gain night access to lighthouses if the gates are locked. At the Assateague Lighthouse in northern Virginia, only at certain times of the year is the park open long enough into the night to photograph the lighthouse before you must leave or get caught locked in for the night! Click the image to view the Artifct.

Red and white lighthouse on rocky outcrop of land

ABOVE: Romer Shoal Lighthouse. Some lighthouses will never be captured at work. Super Storm Sandy destroyed Old Orchard Shoal. Luckily neighboring Romer Shoal remains. For now. Extreme weather threatens the future of many other lighthouses even as the fate of this one is uncertain. Click the image to view the Artifct.


© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.



Rhode Island native David Zapatka's work regularly appears on national news and sports programs for ABC, CBS, CNN, HBO, NBC, and PBS. He’s covered six Superbowls, 20 years of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, four winter Olympic Games for which he won two National Sports Emmy awards for his contributions to the NBC coverage of the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010. David's lighthouses work began in 2013 as a project that became so much more. 

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Grandma's Secret, Not-So-Secret Coin Collection

Sometimes collections sneak up on you. You may not realize it as you browse through tin spoons in a souvenir shop, or rummage through stamps at a yard sale. Yet, when you get back home, you might realize as you go to put your newfound treasures away, wow, I have a lot of those spoons, stamps, you name it!  

This is the story of  @Grandmom, and her secret-not-so-secret coin collection.  

Grandmom never set out to collect coins per se. She's a world traveler, and enjoys bartering in local markets, from Kathmandu to Liberia. Grandmom has always found that she can get a great deal if she offers to toss in an American coin or two. And, when she’s lucky, she gets back local coins and currencies.  

Forty years and just as many (if not more) countries later, Grandmom has quite a coin collection. Not just a couple of bowls of coins by her bedside table. Nope, we’re talking bins and bins of coins and currencies from all over the world. Some date back to the 1800s!  

Forty years and just as many (if not more) countries later, Grandmom has quite a coin collection

The funny thing is, she never explicitly told anyone about it. Her grown sons vaguely recall, “Yeah, she might have had a coin collection.” Her grandkids had no clue either. Imagine our surprise one Sunday afternoon when she pulled out the bins (and bins) of coins and asked for help to identify a couple of her favorites as she can no longer remember when or where she got them, “It was so long ago.” 

Got a secret-not-so-secret collection on your hands? Don’t know where to start? Grandmom’s got a couple of tips to share when going through collections that may have snuck up on you over time.  

  1. Start with your favorites. Which ones do you like the most? What can you remember about them? Don’t worry if you can’t remember everything. You can always go back and add more details later. This is one of Grandmom’s favorite coins 
  2. Are there any unique pieces that you think others should know about? Grandmom has all the stories in her head, but she’s started to Artifct some of the more unique pieces of her collection to make sure that her family knows the details, like these Victory nickels 
  3. Pair travel photos with coins from that location to tell the story. It’s a great way to connect the “what” (the coin) with the experience (the trip, the memories). Can’t remember the exact details? Knowing just the trip and some of your favorite memories from that trip is easily enough to tell the story and connect the dots.  

Have a surprise collection to share? We’d love to feature you! Reach out to us at 

Happy Artifcting! 


© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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A Virtual Impossibility: Keeping Up with All My Digital Photos

In August, my daughter and I visited Cape Cod. A first for each of us! It is the childhood home of Artifcts co-founder Heather Nickerson, and she and her daughter were the perfect hostesses for this quick getaway. My vacation photo collection included:

      • Whale sightings (94 pictures) 
      • Our daughters playing on the beach and posing at the lifeguard station (16) 
      • Sunset on the harbor (12) 
      • Ptown art alley (18) 
      • Marshlands (11) 
      • Random things that made me smile, like a brass King Neptune figure with sign “Mermaids welcome” and the quintessential lobster lunch (22) 

You get the idea.

Three days and 202 photos later, we were departing Cape Cod on our return journey home to Austin. 

Where was I supposed to start with all those photos? On the plane, I did two things: culled and refined. I culled the near duplicates as well as the less than stellar and the “Why did I take that?” images. 


view of deleted photos in album on phoneClearly I did not want to miss my chance to photograph the whales.

After scrubbing as many photos as I could, I color and size adjusted several photos that I particularly liked and marked them as favorites to further distinguish them.    

Now what? What do you do with all the digital photos that are so very easy to accumulate?  

Do you post albums to social media and then move on to some new post once the commentary dies down? Or push them into whatever cloud or other storage device you prefer, and look back through them only for the occasional calendar, enlargement, or holiday card? Perhaps send a few to lucky friends and family through one of those digital picture frames? 

I’m choosing to follow the model of Rainer Jenss, who used Artifcts earlier this summer to chronicle his trip through southern Africa day-by-day and creating composite Artifcts to represent the three days we spent on Cape Cod. Each Artifct captures something special, memorable, or otherwise, “Let’s do that again soon!” endorphin-rush worthy. 

I’ve shared these Artifcts with family, with our hosts so they know how special it was, my daughter (so she’ll always remember), and a few close friends who asked me for travel tips for their upcoming visits to the Cape. Bonus! These Artifcts will also make it easier to retrace our steps the next time we visit. One set of Artifcts, so many possibilities.  

Check out my public Cape Cod Artifcts as you consider how you want to easily and meaningfully manage your growing digital photo collection, even if it's one trip at a time! 

Happy Artifcting! 


© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Three Peas in a Pod: Sports, Stuff, & Stories

If you are a parent, a friend of a parent, neighbor of a parent, or contemplating parenthood, you've probably noticed that sports consume a vast amount of time & energy for parents and child athletes alike not to mention money and storage space for all that gear. And then, they get older, and the equipment larger and more expensive.  

We’ve found ways to cope and find the humor in this sporting reality. Surely you've seen bumper stickers like "swim taxi" or heard someone say, "I'll be working from my {barn} office," as Artifcts Co-founder Heather Nickerson often quips as she departs for her daughter's horse riding lessons. 

You may already be using Artifcts as your top ally in keeping track of the key moments, good luck tokens, awards, gear, and other memorabilia you can't (yet?) part with.  

broken baseball cleat without laces    child in hockey jersey and gear standing outside an indoor rink

Click the image to view the baseball cleat or hockey jersey.
The owners tell us neither of these has been given up (yet)!

Inside the World of Swimming 'Stuff'

Today we're focusing on that last bit, the hall of fame worthy gear, but not from a parent. We're pivoting to the sport of swimming and the Texas Swimming & Diving Hall of Fame.

Charles Logan spent the better part of 12 years as the Director of the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center at The University of Texas at Austin. And lucky for all who enjoy the phenomenal Olympic-level center, Logan has long had a passion for collecting swim memorabilia. Much of his collection now resides in frames, glass display cases, and special exhibits at the Texas Swimming & Diving Hall of Fame, with notable contributions from Texas athletes and their families. 

Picture of an old postcard with a caricature of a swimmer on the front

This Artifct is part of a private swim memorabilia collection. Click the image to view the Artifct.

To clarify, the stuff resides at the Hall of Fame; until very recently, the stories did not.

Those stories were locked in Charles' memories of a lifetime of collecting and chasing histories. That of course meant that when massive crowds visit the facility for NCAA competitions and championships, Olympic qualifying events, and regular long and short course seasons (not to mention hours and hours and hours of practice) the swim memorabilia left people to wonder, "What is this?” “Why is it here?" and “How does it all connect?” And for all those who never visit the Hall of Fame in person, it’s simply lost history. 

Joining forces with Artifcts, the 'stuff' now has stories and is ready and waiting to inform and entertain Hall of Fame visitors and maybe even inspire a whole new generation of swimmers. We invite you to a virtual tour of some of those exhibits on Artifcts! 

black swimsuit with white T on it  Vintage USA Olympic Swim Team Luggage, bag and suitcase    vintage swim patch collection on a swim jacket


And if you're visiting the Texas Swimming & Diving Hall of Fame, be on the look out for Aritfcts QR codes sprinkled throughout!  

Artifcts QR code on a swim mannequin


Have a space in your life like the Texas Swimming & Diving Hall of Fame making you say, "Hmmm?" Contact us at to discuss personal concierge options and non-profit and enterprise support. 

© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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