The practice of making time capsules may be as old as time
Cave paintings are perhaps the first time capsules. They depicted who we were, what
mammoths we killed, and what mammoths killed us.
The oral tradition, and storytelling are a kind of time capsule, they preserve the
collective memory over generations.
In a similar way, writing when it was first invented was a time capsule.
Writing was created for the purpose of taxation and bookkeeping a way of settling
mywordagainstyourstype arguments. "You owe me three
However, these are all gestures of the moment, a record for the present. The cavemen
were probably not thinking about posteritys interest in their society, nor were the
This notion of preserving ones time and place for the future really begins with
the Egyptians. While the pyramids were created as vessels to the afterlife, they are also
vessels to the future.
Esarhaddon, king of Babylonia, Assyria and Egypt, buried cuneiform inscriptions of not
only his own conquests, but his entire civilization. Were it not for efforts like these on
the part of the Egyptians we would know a great deal less about their culture and way of
Preserving Our Heritage
The modern time capsule took this idea a step further. It is an editorial exercise: How
do we fit our entire civilization into a container the size of a shoebox? And furthermore:
How do we ensure that the contents of the capsule remain intact across the centuries?
For the 1939 Worlds Fair, Westinghouse Electric wanted to create a time capsule
that would preserve its contents for 5,000 years. This presented many problems, and they
put their best minds to the task. After some research and much debate, Westinghouse
created a new alloy of copper, called Cupaloy. They wanted to combine the durability of
steel with the ability of copper to prevent corrosion. Cupaloy, they believed, was up to
The crypt into which the time capsule would be lowered, also had to be designed to
ensure that corrosive elements would be kept out. This was achieved through a combination
of Pyrex glass, and water-repellent and preservative gases.
Will Anyone Find Them?
The next great stumbling block was how to tell the people of the 80th century that they
should go to Flushing Meadows and dig up the capsule. The answer to this problem was found
in a book, called simply, "The Book of Record." Printed on archival paper, and
given to libraries all over the world, the "Book of Record" details where the
time capsule is, what is in it, and even a modern version of the Rosetta stone in case the
English language no longer exists.
Next, a committee of historians, archeologists and scientists decided what objects
should be placed inside the capsule. They chose many everyday objects that reflected life
as it was in the 1930s.
At noon on Sept. 23, 1938, the exact moment of the autumnal equinox, the time capsule
was lowered into the immortal well.
A second time capsule was created for the 1964 Worlds Fair, and its contents
reflected the dramatic technological and social changes that had occurred since 1939.
While these time capsules were on one hand optimistic endeavors, they were done with an
awareness of the tragedy and failure of our civilization.
"I trust that posterity will read these statements with a feeling of proud and
justified superiority," wrote Albert Einstein in the "Book of Record".
|The Worlds Fair
Time Capsules Contents
||Plastic Heart Valve
||Birth Control Pills
||Computer Memory Unit
|Mickey Mouse Cup
|Sears Roebuck Catalog
|Deck of Cards
||Fifty-star American Flag