Time in a Capsule
9/28/2009
Can't shake that millennium fever? Maybe a time capsule is the cure.

If you feel that the distant future won't be the same without Aunt Sally's guacamole recipe, consider making sure that it and other defining cultural information will survive by making a time capsule.

The term "time capsule" dates from the 1938-39 New York World's Fair, but in practice, almost every civilization has left something to the effect behind—often unintentionally. And adding to the future's cultural knowledge isn't that difficult.

The first step is deciding what to put your treasures in. For the best preservation of the contents, your capsule should be cool, dry and dark. The International Time Capsule Society www.oglethorpe.edu/itcs/ suggests that a safe is often a good choice. But for something less bulky and heavy, you can purchase actual "time capsules" for anywhere from $20 to more than $1,000.

Future Packaging and Preservation in San Bernardino, Calif. (800-786-6627, www.mindspring.com/~futurepkg/) offers models ranging from simple glass or stainless-steel tubes for around $25 to professionally sealed, 6,000-cubic-inch giants that cost more than $1,300. The company also sells books on preparing time capsules and works with the ITCS to make sure all capsules are registered for future generations to find.

The Family Time Capsule Co. (870-732-5776, familytimecapsule.com) produces individual-sized time capsules made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) rather than metal or glass. A personal-sized capsule costs $39.95, a family-sized capsule is $59.95 and the corporate model is $95.

The Original Time Capsule Co. (800-729-8463, www.timecap.com) has specialized time capsules for historically significant events such as births, weddings, graduations and, of course, the start of the new millennium. They also include materials to guide you through the capsule-making process. Capsules are priced between $17.95 and $35.

To insure that your capsule and its contents make it to the future, keep a few things in mind:

  • Liquids and perishable products are not good ideas. As they decompose, they can damage other items.
  • Set a retrieval date for your capsule and make sure that date is documented somewhere. Registering capsules with the ITCS is a good way to do this.
  • If the capsule is going to be sealed for more than 50 years, consider a professional sealing to pump out the oxygen.
  • Remember where you put the capsule. Burying it isn't always the best idea—in this case, "out of sight" can mean permanently "out of mind." Consider instead an indoor location such as an attic, or even in a library or archive. The ITCS estimates 10,000 capsules exist worldwide, but most of them are lost.
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