Packaging isn’t simply a way to protect the treasures inside; occasionally it is what gives those treasures value in the first place. How else to understand one of the most successful projects currently heating up Kickstarter right now? With 28 days left to go as of this writing, San Francisco’s Ozma Records has raised more than $220,000 from 1,875 backers to create a limited-edition of one the most important recordings every made: the golden phonograph record mounted on the Voyager space probes back in 1977. Each record contained sound and images – from the music of Chuck Berry and Beethoven to the sounds of birds and trains – designed to explain to any extraterrestrial that encountered it something about our planet and ourselves.
Leaving aside for the moment the questionable wisdom of letting potentially hostile alien lifeforms know where we are and how technologically inferior we are to anything capable of encountering these records in the first place, there’s always been something rather touching about this desperate attempt at communication. (At least we did it before the advent of social media. You can see it now: “And Like “Earth” on Facebook!”) Yet if you truly wanted to experience these records yourself, you had to futz around with a CD-ROM (remember them?). This 40th anniversary edition actually puts it all on three heavy vinyl records and packages the lot in a way befitting what is essentially a “show reel” for our planet.
The Kickstarter promises the records “will slip into old style tip on, black ink and gold foil jackets.”
“The audio will be complemented by a beautifully-designed hardbound book of captivating images from the original interstellar message, glorious photos of the planets returned to Earth from the Voyager probes, compelling essays, and ephemera from the project’s history.”
And it all will fit nicely in a cloth-covered box with gold foil inlay. Finally, “Each set will include a color, plastic digital download card with a code to access all of the audio in MP3 or FLAC format. A lithograph of the iconic Golden Record cover diagram, printed with gold metallic ink on archival paper will complete the box set.”
While far from being a showy bit of design, the packaging does one thing really well: It honors the seriousness of the endeavor. This was all something that could have simply been dumped on DVD or offered as a direct download (and probably will be as well, if it hasn’t been already). But packaging is an old human impulse, after all. Just as old as reaching out into the void and calling, “Here we are, come find us.”
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