On Time Capsules

I’ve always thought time capsules, the supposedly (see below link) sealed canisters of sundries that are meant to provoke revery and wonderment for future generations, not the questionable Apple backup devices, are a strange exercise.

I suppose for kids it’s a fun time, thinking about the future and the doe-eyed children who inhabit it and whatnot. Although I recall it being a stark realization that I’d either be long dead or so old I wouldn’t care.

Pittsburgh Gets Pranked by 100-Year-Old Time Capsule

I do like the comparison to Geraldo Rivera in Al Capone’s vault in the original story. Many of you will recall that infamous bust.

Anyway, funny story about time capsules that happens to take place in a place I’ve been, Soldiers and Sailors Hall.

Fun fact, Hannibal Lecter cage scenes from “Silence of the Lambs” take place in that hall, and I knew a guy who knew the guy who buffed that magnificent wood floor for the movie.




  1. Despite that minor little soldering problem, it’s fascinating to see the items that people select as significant to share with future generations. Long after the conclusion of the Civil War, someone thought that Confederate money was a significant item to place in the time capsule. (Truthfully, the Civil War was still affecting the country even 100 years after it ended.) Yet if someone from the 21st century had instructed the people to include items relating to child labor, sanitation, or automotive design, the people from the 20th century probably would have wondered what the fuss was about.

  2. Yeah, I suppose how the mundane (or not) ages is interesting. It still seems like a lot of hoopla for very little return. I think it would be equally interesting to take a cross-section of a neighborhood and freeze it in time, wo the people natch.

    Confederate money is interesting, but not terribly valuable, if Pawn Stars is to be believed. Depends on the denomination and condition of course.

  3. The problem is that the current age is, if anything, over-recorded. Every bit of news, gossip and opinion is being preserved. Photos and videos of anything and everything, being used and mis-used. Coins and the like will survive anyway. Collectors will keep comic books, baseball cards, autographed photos of D-list celebrities…In an age of mass production, it would be harder to wipe most items from existence than to preserve them.
    About the only thing I would see as being interest to future generations would be a ‘larder’ of food items. Pizza, Big Macs, chocolate and cakes. Preservation of that would be an interesting challenge.

  4. I disagree with Gary, the mass amount of things and info generated has a bit of a paradox, in that so much important would not be saved. Cd’s last, what, 5 years? Various archival projects are underway, but many things are already lost. Recycling means even garbage dumps won’t have anything. Futurama has had some funny jokes about this (like pirates on the moon theme park).

    Time Capsule fail: http://www.streetlegaltv.com/forum/time-capsule-plymouth-rust-bucket-undergoing-4869.html

  5. I wonder if your perception of over-recording is a byproduct of triviality and comparison though, i.e. yes, we document a lot of what could be deemed trivial and yes, there is a lot more documenting than even 20 years ago.

    Interest is confined to the beholder though, e.g. archaeologists are fascinated by what seem to be mundane details about past civilizations.

    I do tend to agree wrt to time capsules though, which are typically not entombed long enough to outlast the memory or documented history of those who open them. Plus, it seems most time capsules aren’t very good at preserving their “treasures”.

  6. Yeah, I’m sure we can predict what will or won’t be interesting in the distant future (see my reply to Garry), although time capsules are a bit dumb IMO. They don’t stay interred long enough to be interesting, and you’ve added another story to the time capsule failure list. So, we’re finding they were more an exercise for the past than for the not-so-distant future.

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