For over thirty years, I have been obsessed with collecting “artifacts'' about my life experiences and those of my family members, especially my ancestors. Since at least high school, I’ve always felt someday I would create the platform to share all these photos, videos and documents with others, hopefully in the format of rich, multi-media stories. In my 20s, I made 20-30 albums from pictures, ribbons certificates and other things I had collected so far. About the time I turned 30, this interest intensified as it became connected to a new interest in genealogy. I discovered one of my dad’s cousins had built a family tree in Family Tree Maker software, and one of his brothers had done a bunch of research, collected lots of family artifacts and taken lots of detailed notes about them. I actually took a week of vacation in 1997 to fly from Boston to visit my “Aunt Mary Lynn” in Minnesota, to go over her family tree, and to visit my “Uncle Mike” in Sandusky, Ohio, and “borrow” a box full of these family heirlooms. Since that time, I’ve continued to collect photos and documents, not just of my nuclear family, but of many other family members as well.
Rediscovering Family Artifacts
I remember when my Grandma Webb died. Her kids, my aunts and uncles, were sitting around the table, telling stories about her and their life growing up together. One of them turned to me and said, “Erik, don’t you have a lot of pictures and other stuff scanned in your digital archive?” I said in fact I did, and in no time we were going through hundreds of these items in my Dropbox folder structure. I told them someday I would have a platform that made it easy to share these precious moments and to capture the stories that really brought these to life!”
Explosion in the Digital Era; Overwhelmed by Media
My obsession has taken on new dimensions with the explosion of digital media, thanks to smart/camera phones. I now have over 150,000 photos, videos and scanned documents. I have the photos/videos in Google Photos, and I've created 1500 albums, but that still only scratches the surface. I'm sure many people can relate to my feeling of being overwhelmed by it all. It's hard to go back and find media for specific events, even with the date/location/facial tagging that Google does to the media. Ironically, just when people have more home videos/photos from which to create and watch home videos, I think people actually "relive" these past memories less than before, because life has become so busy and it's so hard to assemble the media into manageable home videos. This is a key problem I aim to solve.
Since 2001, I’ve tried three different times to get a prototype off the ground to address these challenges, but always tried to do it myself and never had enough talent to make it fly. Finally, while attending Tony Robbins’ Date with Destiny event in December 2019, I realized this dream was too important to postpone any longer. I decided then and there I was going to build a team and turn this dream into a reality.
What's In A Name?
I decided to call the app GreatAlbum, because the idea is that all content will be organized into Albums, which can contain events, stories, media, places, individuals and discussions. Albums enable users to maintain privacy based on memberships, and events become like sub-albums with media, stories, places and individuals attached to them. And Great means this is a really great idea/application, but also because through it you will learn more about your Great Grandparents, your Great Great Grandparents, and many other loved ones in your life and family history.
As I've dived into this project, I've discovered this dream has actually turned into a 3-part mission: (1) build the GreatAlbum App, as I've long dreamed, (2) harness the power of the Drupal community for its development and give back to that community as we create breakthroughs, and (3) create a new community support model that could be powerful for GreatAlbum and other companies/products/services. Read more about this at 3-Part Mission for GreatAlbum.
Now, it feels like every other day I encounter people who really wish they had something like this to celebrate the lives of loved ones. They almost never say it that way, because they don’t know that something like this exists, but I can tell how much they want to celebrate and appreciate someone, and when I tell them about GreatAlbum, they say, “That sounds amazing. How can I join?” Very soon, they will be able to. And you will be able to as well!