• Mallory Garber

Craziest Time Capsules

Modern technology gives us the gift of preserving time in the most creative ways. Give the past a personality by making memorable time capsules.

It may be hard to believe, but even before getting an internship with a time capsule company, they have always interested me. How could they not? When you really think of the concept of time capsules they are so complex and intriguing. The idea of preserving your most treasured possessions for generations far beyond your life to see is so fascinating to me. Think about how quickly life changes and the way we live it. What better way to remind us of our past than looking back with physical momentums?

We as a society in itself have learned so much from time capsules. A prime example is Oglethorpe’s Crypt of Civilization. It is known to be the oldest millennial time capsule in the making and largest in the world. Plans to execute this capsule started as early as 1936. It was designed to store records for over 6,000 years, something so epic it has never been done before. The visionary of this project was Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, Oglethorpe University president.

According to the International Time Capsule Society,

“Jacobs was convinced that his generation could be the first to perform what he later called ‘our archaeological duty.’ This was an obligation to provide for future historians a thorough and accurate record, scientifically selected and preserved, of life in the twentieth century.”

The time capsule was sealed at Oglethorpe University on May 28, 1940. The capsule is not to be opened until May 28, 8113. The year 8113 does not even sound real! It is so crazy to think regardless of what happens, time goes on, no matter how long it may seem.

It’s almost like a game we play with ourselves to see just how far we have come.

I had to do some research for this blog and let me tell you…I cannot believe some of the things I found. Usually when I think of time capsules, all that comes up is some old videos, faded pictures, and maybe some tattered bits of an ancient news paper article. Well according to a simple google search, they can be made up of so much more. I never realized how clever people could be with these things.

In 2019, The Space Needle sealed a capsule that is set to be opened April 21, 2062, with more than 100 items tucked inside. Some items inside were kept a secret, an interesting tactic for those who open it 42 years from now. The first five items of the capsule included:

  • Set of Forever stamps

  • Single share of stock

  • Poster signed by Pearl Jam

  • Mini Seahawks helmet signed by Walter Jones

  • Twinkies

I think the most interesting items are the Amazon stock and Twinkies. Amazon is a company that has embedded its way into our lives. I could not imagine a world where I could not ship something I needed in just 24 hours. What is something bigger and better comes along in 2062? The share is a test to Amazon’s success, seeing how long it will last. As for the Twinkies? Who doesn’t love them, they are timeless.

Time capsules do not have to be a compilation of items in a box. It can be an object in itself. University of Iowa history expert, Nick Yablon, traced the creation of time capsules back to the late 1870’s, discovering some uncharted territory. ABC Radio National explains that Yablon said,

“they were used in the early promotion of eugenics — the idea of improving the human race through ‘scientific breeding’.”

One of the conceptions discovered was a bomb. Crazy right? Ironically enough, George E Pendray, a PR consultant for Westinghouse Electric Company, wanted to call it the “time bomb.” At least we know he had a sense of humor along with his risk of burying a BOMB!

On my quest to finding some of the most interesting time capsules, I came across 10 that stuck out in particular. Here is what I found:

  1. A whiskey bottle with a joke inside: he note read “sorry there is no liquor in, but I drank it all up.” What a tease.

  2. A Mussolini prediction: referred to Mussolini’s rejection from a peace agreement.

  3. An electroshock therapy video: an old video referring back to old mental health treatments.

  4. The Lisa Mouse: an early model of a Steve Job’s apple product.

  5. A piece of cake: guessed to be a slice from the opening party for a funeral home building in Niagara Falls. I wonder how it tasted being years old.

  6. A mysterious message from a student: Montgomery elementary school of Albuquerque, New Mexico found a message from a student in a capsule that opened with “I am dead,” continuing with “I was bored in 1900.” Creepy…

  7. Hiroshima finger nail: Finger nail from one of the survivors of the Hiroshima attack that took place in 1945. Gross or cool?

  8. A Soviet Message: An optimistic message hoping for a better society.

  9. An entire apartment: (yes you read that right), an apartment passed down by French social light to her granddaughter. The apartment was abandoned after she fled Paris during WWII. It was uncovered decades later and used as a preservation of a different format for a time capsule.

  10. A vile of Penicillin from MIT: Not to be opened until 2957 to compare modern science.

Wow right? Time capsules not only capture history, but the personalities of the people that make them. Take the Hiroshima finger nail for example. That person could have put literally anything else to remember the survivor. A hat, shirt, something normal. Why a finger nail? In the end it really does not matter, they got us talking. That’s part of the fun with time capsules. We are left years later to interpret why the people stored what they did. The more creative they are, the more we notice.

I underestimated the creativity and dedication that goes into these things. In today’s age it is hard not to be innovative. 2020 has pushed us to our limit, forcing us to adapt to anything thrown at us. One of the largest transitions we have had as a society is going from living life in the moment to completely online. Don’t get me wrong, being online has its perks. Living life virtually is proof of how advanced we are.

One of the perks of modern technology is the ability to avoid data rot. Regardless of how advanced we become, the sentimental aspect behind paper documents is timeless. The sad reality of having physical momentums is that they are especially susceptible to flooding, mold, insects and rust. Daniel Genkins writes in “Building a digital archive for decaying paper documents, preserving centuries of records about enslaved people” that,

“The goal is to ensure this information — including some from documents that no longer exist physically — is accessible to future generations.”

The best way to preserve access for these priceless documents is by digitalizing them into an online vault. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to do that is through programs like NotForgotten. With websites like these, the opportunities are endless. This company in particular has had the ability to protect data from rot for over three hundred years. That is three whole centuries! Imagine all that could happen between now and then.

This type of technology gives us the opportunity to become a part of something so much more. We now have the ability to connect with a future that seems so far out of touch. Historically, we can now use time capsules in a way we never could have imagined. The idea of artificial intelligence sounds very futuristic and creepy, but it has benefited us in so many ways we do not realize. Now, humanity can be shared over time and trends can be discovered. Now, more than ever we should realize the importance of learning from our past. Who knows how much more we would know about the coronavirus if artificial intelligence was around during the Spanish influenza? Describing our experiences through time capsules can help future generations the next time they realistically obtain another pandemic. They can gather the information from the masses and see what we did wrong. Newswire shares their perspective on artificial intelligence by explaining that,

“new collaboration to facilitate AI-enabled metadata and insights about events, people, places and emotions create a complete picture of a point in time.”

There are so many questions I have for the future. Some of them I may never find out, so why not leave them for others to find? Finding things to write about became more than just a blog. These people have inspired me to create a capsule to leave something really meaningful behind, not just the basics. You become more interesting when you surprise people, and that is exactly what capsules like I described did. I don’t want to be thrown into the unknown abyss, leaving nothing behind. I want my capsule to be talked about the same way these were.

It is our duty as a society to preserve history in a way that people can’t forget, even if they wanted to. Give the past a personality by making memorable time capsules. Who can’t resist looking into why a piece of cake was stored for years? Questions lead to research and research leads to answers. Our physical presence will not be there in the future to keep people engaged, so we have to find alternative ways to make the past heard.

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