What Would You Put In Your Time Capsule?

Time capsules are a curious thing. I'm sure you have witnessed the typical scene shown on the news or online. There is box or cylinder buried underground, or removed from a wall. The owners of the property, or a cheeky building contractor, had collected artifacts that represented that moment in time and save them to be found later. Sometimes they tell people about the time capsule. Sometimes it is left to chance.

There is a mystery associated with a time capsule. We think it is going to show us a time that was very different than our own. But, in reality, things haven't changed that much. People still live in houses, go to work, are fearful of war and violence, and still debate over politics and politicians.

The typical time capsule usually includes some personal or cultural artifacts. Perhaps a letter to "whom it may concern". They often include newspaper clippings that are faded and brittle, I suppose to prove the date the capsule was sealed and to show current news. Of course, how could someone 50 or more years ago know that Google (or prior to 1998 when Google was founded) would allow us to find just about anything at any time? 

I don't know the failure rate of physical time capsules. I suspect that many are damaged or never discovered. The contents need to be protected from moisture, the container needs to withstand corrosion, it needs to be in a location where it won't be destroyed, and it needs to get found somehow.

The other aspect of time capsules is that they are rarely personal. The ones I've seen, anyway. The expectation is they will be found by some member of the public rather than a member of your family. You can only get so intimate when you know it will be viewed by complete strangers.

Like a mini version of the gold records sent into the cosmos on the Voyager space probes, time capsules try to represent us and our time to those that come after us. Time capsules are a way of continuing our legacy. Will intelligent life be able to play a gold record? Hard to say. Do newspaper clippings and artifacts represent who we are? Not really.

I think a truly interesting and engaging time capsule would be personal, it would contain stories from your life and moments that were special to you. It would convey who you were and what you wanted to say. The best time capsules are left for your family. Even if it is for your great-great-grandchildren who won't know who you are. Everything else in the world will be known and searchable.

What Google doesn't know is your true story, despite their sophisticated algorithms. You are not your search history. Until the time when mind reading capability is announced, only you know what is in your head.

You could put together a personal time capsule collection like this using a safe deposit box or perhaps leave it with a lawyer with instructions. We offer a digital version that we think is pretty great, and lots of people use it. Regardless of how you do it, there is tremendous value in having this continuity from generation to generation. The stories of families are important. They should be discussed while everyone is living, and passed on to those that come after us.