• Mallory Garber

Time Capsules - The Forever Home for History

Technology has evolved so that essential parts of history can be preserved forever and protected like never before. Read this blog to find out how.

Religion can be perceived in many ways. It is a concept that has given people around the world an explanation for why things are the way they are and how they got there. Religion has dictated many of the directions history has taken, making every aspect of its existence extremely valuable to record. Many of the traditions we take part in today are based off ancient records. Rituals, services, sacrifices, worships, feasts, festivals, etc. all stem from some type of religious origin. Even the choice to not be a religious person requires knowledge of what religion is. By definition, it is defined as, “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” Key word: controlling power.

Religion is a tough topic to blog about solely because there are so many different beliefs with such interesting origins. Such beliefs have lead to various controversies, when really the purpose behind all religions is to do the same thing: give reason. Those reasons are often backed up by the past and the way things have played out. I find it incredible that there are people out there who have dedicated their whole lives to recording religious history.

I was intrigued to write about religion after viewing an email from an ordained minister who resides in Italy. He had taken the time to translate many of his spiritual teacher’s books into Italian. After doing so, he, like most people thought about the future. What would he do with such sacred knowledge 50–60 years from now? Who could he trust to save and distribute this information for generations to learn? His solution he proposed (a very good one I might add), suggested he use a time capsule. In his email he wrote,

“Unfortunately I do not know where to put such a box as it would contain paper and putting it in the ground would be a waste of time and energy. Furthermore opening a box like that after 2–300 years would require much carefulness and expertise.”

Frankly, this minister is not the only one with this problem. Religious sanctuaries around the world struggle with maintaining storage for documents in safe preservation. It is very easy for historical documents to be lost over vast amounts of time, even the most important ones.

All types of societies, religions and even families are struggling with what to do with the growing catalog of historical archives that are weighing down shelves in basements of these institutions. Already most of the museums, galleries and libraries are full up and unable to take any personal collection donations of historical records. Sometimes like the minister in Italy – it’s the concern that the institution will not live beyond the individual, but that history should. Sometimes it’s the lack of shelf space and ability to keep the documents in a healthy state. Sometimes the current generation of a family simply does not have the interest in storing dead aunt Mable’s collection of family documents. That is why it is necessary to find a preservation method you can trust.

The challenge of history preservation has always been fourfold:

  • how to prevent the documents from rotting

  • how to ensure anything digital is readable long into the future

  • how to prevent the archive from getting lost

  • how to ensure the archives are accessible

Modern well run time capsule companies offer a safe haven for history – providing solutions to all four of these challenges.

I think there is a stigma around time capsules, preventing people from seeing how powerful of a tool they can really be. Before actually working for a time capsule company, I never truly understood their significance. Originally, I thought it was something people did in high school, digging a hole in their football field and opening it 10 years later at their reunion. Turns out the concept of time capsules is much more mature than that and go way beyond the memories we hold. After learning about the International Time Capsule Society, I was exposed to just how much information a time capsule can hold. A prime example is The Crypt of Civilization. The Crypt of Civilization at Oglethorpe University is, “the oldest millennial time capsule in conception and the largest in the world.”

The 2,000-cubic-foot vault contains numerous artifacts, photographs and sound recordings that illustrate early 20th century life. Classic literature and religious texts were also deposited.

Whilst the crypt of civilization contained the entire history of the modern world and the translation tools to read it, on a more pedestrian level, modern time capsules can be used to store the history of our own personal lives, and they too contain a surprising amount of space for an affordable price (you can get for 20GB stored for 150 years – which equates to about 20 hours of home movies or 10,000 iPhone photos for around $450)

The idea of preserving information for centuries is exactly the type of technology religions need to take advantage of, especially those with a dwindling parish, a public domain and weighed down shelves. Virtual capsules can be found on a virtual map. With a simple click of a mouse, people can have access all around the world to sacred religious documents from their homes. It gives people the opportunity to learn without going through obstacles to actually obtain that knowledge. By keeping information in a digital preservation library, sharing what is known to the public in the easiest, most accessible way as possible.

I have always taken an interest in learning about other religions and now I finally have the resources to allow me to do that. Growing up Jewish, I have always followed traditions. Whether it be Hebrew school from a young age or attending synagogue on high-holidays, my family and I did what we could to be a part of the religion. I never realized how much the concept Judaism blended with Hinduism along with other spiritual aspects. Our beliefs often overlap, giving us wider perspectives on life and how we live it. We rely on documents from the past to tell us these things and reassure our practices.

Whenever entering the synagogue, I used to be so skeptical of how they were able to keep the Torah preserved for so long. It takes so much effort and security in order for it to stay in its pristine condition. I can recall being yelled at for touching it because the oil from my fingers could damage the paper. Something as fragile as that should have a back up like the digital preservation libraries. By doing so the ancient stories are kept safe, and more importantly, alive forever.

The big picture of time capsules goes way beyond just religion. They are essential for recalling history. The whole purpose of being able to remember history is so we don’t repeat mistakes and improve over time. Time captures everything, both the good and the bad, making it a necessity to embrace both.

The National Museum of American History is currently collecting tales from 2020 for a time capsule. I think projects like these are so beneficial for the future. Where will we be 50 years from now? Where will they? Shouldn’t our kids know what it was like to live in a pandemic? Many of the items included in the capsule are disposable masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer…see a pattern? It’s easy to see that history is happening, but time capsules give us a way to humanize it and share it from our perspective. The museum’s motifs explain that,

“Historians will remember 2020 — a time of pandemic, economic crisis, police violence, and protest. But how does it feel to be part of history? We want to gather an inclusive, wide-ranging, and personal record of this moment — a digital time capsule for future generations and a place for conversation right now. Here’s your chance to be heard — by your national museum, by your fellow Americans, and by the future.”

Every religion, event, and personal experience comes with perspective. We all see the same things, but interpret them differently. At the end of the day, it’s important that we have these things to even interpret. Time capsules give us the option to view things in whichever way we want to view them. Knowledge of the past is what has shaped society all these years, and will continue to do so. That is why it is important for us to choose what the future will see and make sure the past is always going to be relevant in the future.



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