Making a Family Time Capsule

Capture Memories for a Lifetime
By Joost Effers and Michael Fragnito

The concept of the time capsule as we know it was invented by G. Edward Pendray of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Pendray's capsule was buried at the site of the 1939 New York World's Fair on September 23, 1938, and is scheduled to be opened in 6939. It was the intention of the organizers to "represent all the enormous variety and vigor of life" and to deposit "information touching upon all the principal categories of our thought, activity and accomplishment; sparing nothing, neither our wisdom nor our foolishness, our supreme achievements nor our recognized weaknesses." Since that time, numerous capsules have been buried, placed in the foundations of buildings or catapulted into space.

What Should Go Inside
The variety of material that can be included in your time capsule is almost infinite. It includes:

  • copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, driver's licenses, diplomas, report cards, Social Security cards, college ID's, passports, deeds, mortgage papers, awards, certificates, military papers and other official documents
  • cards, letters postcards, telegrams, stamps, envelopes and printed email
  • pressed flowers, leaves, feathers and locks of hair
  • ticket stubs, travel itineraries and hotel stationery
  • wallpaper or fabric swatches
  • menus, wine labels, matchbook covers and business cards
  • favorite quotes, song lyrics, poems and prayers
  • heirloom recipes
  • children's drawings and other family artwork
  • tags, ribbons and wrappings from gifts
  • maps and house plans
  • photocopies of your hand or a group of hands
  • thumbprints or handprints
  • political or current-events memorabilia, such as newspaper clippings
  • professional and candid portraits, vacation photos, photos of the inside and outside of your home and your family members' homes, reproductions of antique photos and school or team photos
  • jewelry and other small items or family heirlooms
  • personal items that individuals might have carried with them, such as a wallet, medallion, religious object, key or key chain, lucky coin
  • household items such as pipe, pen, paperweight
  • small articles of clothing such as a scarf, tie or handkerchief
  • items that document an era, such as fax, a computer mouse, train schedule, advertisements for clothes, computers or cars, the cover of a contemporary magazine, paper money or coins (which some experts feel will be obsolete in the future)

The Dedication Ceremony
Usually, when community time capsules are dedicated, the mayor gives a speech, the local clergy recites an invocation and a band plays the national anthem. The 1939 World's Fair capsule was lowered into the ground at exactly noon, as a gong tolled. You and your family will probably opt for a somewhat less elaborate ceremony, but it is an event that should be attended by all available family members. If there is a prayer, poem or quotation that has personal meaning, you might have the oldest or youngest person recite it, and someone should read aloud the text of the dedication page.

When to Close and Open the Capsule
You should select a day of significance, either universally or personally. Some obvious days are January 1, Christmas Day or another religious holiday, the vernal equinox, July 4, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Mother's Day or Father's Day, or a day of historical importance. How long you choose to keep the capsule closed is entirely up to you. We feel that 25 years is the minimum length of time. To a child, that will seem like an eternity, but most adults realize that it passes in a veritable blur. Each year the Ark is in transit will add to its power and mystery, as time and events reveal the secrets of the future. Today's society craves instant gratification, and so this concept is entirely contradictory to our present way of life.

Be patient. It will be worth the wait.
For more great ideas, take a look at a new product called Ark to the Future: A Family Time Capsule and Memory Album. It includes all of the following: silver metal time capsule, 32-page hardcover memory album printed on acid-free paper, poster-size family tree suitable for framing, fully illustrated handbook with inspiration and advice on filling the time capsule, two postcards, 10 decorative stickers, one sealing label, and a certificate of voyage designed to be kept separately from the capsule ensuring that it won't be lost with the passage of time.

Article reproduced with permission from Disney Canada. View original article here.