(+) Save Something for Future Generations: Create a Time Capsule

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

timecapsuleAccording to the International Time Capsule Society at https://goo.gl/ZISrDr, “The 1989 Oxford English Dictionary defines a time capsule as ‘a container used to store for posterity a selection of objects thought to be representative of life at a particular time.’ Time capsules are interesting to people of all ages and touch people on a world-wide scale. Properly prepared time capsules preserve the salient features of history and can serve as valuable reminders of one generation for another. Time capsules give individuals, families and organizations an independent voice to the future.”

Time capsules often are created by historical societies or other organizations who wish to preserve a “snapshot” of life today. However, creation of time capsules certainly is not limited to historical organizations. You might use a time capsule to mark a special anniversary, whether your tenth wedding anniversary, your baby’s first birthday, or your home town’s centennial or sesquicentennial celebration. Then again, you may just want a time capsule for fun or for a temporary learning project.

I know of one fifth grade class that made a time capsule containing information written by each member of the class. Each student wrote a note to their future selves, making some predictions of what the world and he or she will be like in the future. The school department promised to open the time capsule after a number of years and to send a copy of each note to the student who wrote it. Apparently, the school department repeats this project every year with all of its fifth grade classes.

Similarly, a private individual or a family also might want to create a time capsule to be opened by future generations. What better gift for a genealogist to leave for his or her descendants than mementos of life in the early twenty-first century? Then again, perhaps you want to bury something of value in your own back yard in hopes of retrieving it some time in the future when you need the item. Gold coins or a family heirloom pop to mind.

If this sounds like a fun project with very long-term rewards, read on for some ideas about how to create your own time capsule, what you might want to put in it, and – just as important – what NOT to put in it.

Do-It-Yourself

For many people, making a time capsule is a do-it-yourself effort. They make the time capsule from steel, aluminum, or even PVC pipe. If you plan to store the time capsule in your living room, you don’t need a heavy-duty unit that can withstand being buried in the back yard. However, if planning keep the time capsule preserved for several decades or more, most people plan on burying it for many years; that takes a bit more thought.

For one example of how not to create a time capsule, check out my earlier article, If You are Going to Make a Time Capsule, Make Sure it is Waterproof, at https://goo.gl/2GdED8. That article describes a time capsule that was opened after being buried for 50 years. There was but one problem: it was half full of water. Also, read the article Confederate Time Capsule Opened, Is Filled With Soggy Garbage at https://goo.gl/IPYg0P. It describes a time capsule created in 1895 that reportedly was filled with rare Confederate artifacts. When opened, it only contained a bunch of soggy garbage.

The Centennial Vault, a time capsule in Centralia, Pennsylvania. When opened, there was about a foot water inside. This ruined most of the items within the time capsule and entirely destroyed anything made of paper.

The Centennial Vault, a time capsule in Centralia, Pennsylvania. When opened, there was about a foot water inside. This ruined most of the items within the time capsule and entirely destroyed anything made of paper.

The primary need is to make the time capsule sturdy and completely waterproof.

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