Re-inventing the Modern Time Capsule

It all started with a crate of records. A black grated plastic square teeming with tunes, album covers as the entryways into a circular trance of needle and vinyl dancing to equal harmony. As I sat listening to an early rendition of Desperado by the Eagles I could hear the tin echo of our voices singing in his metallic grey ’82 Scirocco on the way to an Oakland A’s game. As Don Henley continued to wail on that dusty record I fell deeper into my recollection of my father, Michael, a man who had shaped and loved me for my first 13 years before succumbing to cancer after a tireless fight. Somewhere in that song and in each record I played, I reconnected missing pieces of my memory as if my dad was reaching out to hug me across the boundaries of space and time. That evening the journey began…

Michael Lichtenstein with his son Niles Lichtenstein at City Hall

It started with downloading the music I remembered and tracks in his collection that I had never heard before. From his record collection alone, I started to understand a little bit more about my father. He was a man with a penchant for Motown, but a solid grounding in the classics of rock, jazz and classical. Later I would learn that he would secretly spin forbidden jazz records in between classical tracks when he was a college DJ. Soon I drifted from record crate to photo album as I didn’t want this trip down memory lane, this embrace with my father, to end.

A shared history of music started this journey

Hundreds of photos and tens of videos later, I sat in my room trying to digest it all. Knowing that these rich assets couldn’t be lost I sent them to be digitized and I was sent back a CD (yes a CD) of the images. After I looked for a CD-Rom, I flipped through the old photos watching the evolution of a young man, clean cut in his naval outfit, progress to loose haired hippie and eventually proud, balding father. All these photos had a story to tell, but that story felt muted. I decided if I couldn't hear his voice, I could at least reach out to his family and friends to gather the oral history of those he knew best.

Dad on the USS Davidson during the Vietnam War

After ninety days of traveling across space and time to relive his days in Queens, Boston, Vietnam, and San Francisco, I was mentally tired, but spiritually lifted. The time, the money, the effort was all worth it, but when I wanted to share my father’s story with my fiance, mom and little brother that intense journey was reduced to a set of clickable files in a folder in the cloud. Underwhelmed and heartbroken that I couldn't relate this rich experience, I became obsessed with re-inventing the modern time capsule. With all the technology and tools available there had to be a better way to take the set of fragmented physical and digital assets scattered across our lives and unify them in a meaningful narrative to ensure our greatest human resource, our history, wouldn’t be lost.

Thanks to an equally obsessed co-founder (Ben Yee), support from family and friends, and a visionary incubator, Matter VC, The History Project (THP) is becoming a reality. THP empowers you to build your own modern time capsule to reconnect to the media and moments that matter in the story of your life, the life of others and the groups you care most about.

History is a source of meaning that connects us, delights us and inspires us to become greater than we can imagine. In many ways history, for individuals and organizations, is our most powerful media. Yet, as important as “our history” is it currently exists as a set of disconnected objects across physical and digital realities: a meaningful e-mail in gmail, a memorable song in itunes, a family recipe in dropbox, physical photos and letters in the attic. This fragmentation has only increased as everyday physical assets are being lost and our digital content is exponentially multiplying. As a society we can't afford to lose the incredible human resource of our history and we must continue to reinvent how we capture our past, with the technology of today to impact the future.

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