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TikTok collector reunites families with lost photos and videos

TikTok collector reunites families with lost photos and videos

He’s the Sherlock of TikTok.

Social media manager-turned-online lost and found curator David Gutenmacher is reuniting families with their long lost keepsakes. After finding the misplaced items at thrift stores, he shares the discoveries on his popular TikTok gallery @MuseumOfLostMemories.

“It’s like going on a treasure hunt,” the 25-year- old Gutenmacher told The Post. “The gold at the end of each journey is reconnecting families with their lost mementos.”

Gutenmacher thrift shops across the boroughs every week, hunting down abandoned pictures, rolls of film and video tapes. He buys, develops and digitizes the relics, converting them from analogue to social media-friendly files. Then he shares the revitalized visuals with his over 237,000 followers in hopes of finding their rightful owners. 

“Whenever I’d go thrifting I’d always see buckets of old pictures or videos and thought it was sad that a family’s memories were just collecting dust in a secondhand shop,” the Queens native said. 

“So I started buying the pieces to give them new life on TikTok.”

Since launching his account in January, Gutenmacher’s uncovered countless intriguing artifacts, including Andrew Cuomo’s senior year book and pictures of Bernie Sanders on his high school’s track team. He’s also reunited a number of people with their lost wedding videos, misplaced polaroids of holiday gatherings and old handwritten letters between loved ones.

But his most viral discovery came from a thrift store haul in Long Island. 

He purchased a VHS labeled “Africa,” and digitized it through video conversion system ElGato Video Capture. 

He edited the footage into a 45-second montage, set it to nostalgic jazz music and shared the clip on TikTok. Almost immediately, his followers began hunting down the video’s star, a young man wearing a “Wesleyan Swimming” shirt. 

One such social media sleuth, Julie Russ, was hot on the scent.

“The biggest clue that helped me find the guy was his Wesleyan shirt,” Russ, 52, told The Post. “I wanted to help find him and get him this footage.”

After combing through the over a dozen US colleges with “Wesleyan” in their titles, the mother of three from Minnesota got in touch with the swimming coach of Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He connected her with the guy in the decades-old video, Jono Marcus.  

“I got a voicemail from this lady named Julie claiming there was a video of me and my parents in Africa that was trending on TikTok,” Marcus, 54, told The Post. “At first, I thought it was spam or a scam.”

But, much to his delight, it was neither. 

“She texted me the link to the TikTok, and sure enough, the person in the video was me,” said Marcus, a non-profit fundraising consultant. “I was in disbelief, but so happy someone found it.”

The footage was from a 21-day family vacation to the William Holden Wildlife Center in Nanyuki, Kenya in 1989. Marcus was 23 at the time. 

The tape went missing when his mother moved out of their family home in Long Island after his father, Kenneth, died in 2015. 

Marcus, now a husband and dad of two living in Maryland, created a TikTok account and made a duet video to complement Gutenmacher’s post— which has amassed over 2.2 million views. 

His wife and daughters helped him re-enacted some of the scenes from the Africa trip, and he even wore his old Wesleyan Swimming sweatshirt to underscore his identity. 

But what was most important to him was seeing the moments of the footage that featured his late father. 

“Seeing my dad again in that video meant the world to me and my family,” Marcus said. “We’re grateful to have it back.”

Although Gutenmacher doesn’t get paid for posting his treasured finds, he says reuniting families with pieces of their past makes the job worthwhile. 

“Its so cool to be the person that brings joy to people by giving them something from their own history.”

About the author

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Vicky Sequeira

With more than 6 years of experience working as a media professional, Vicky flaunts prowess in bringing the juicy tit-bits from the entertainment industry for the readers of News Brig.

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