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International Time Capsule Society

The International Time Capsule Society (ITCS), headquartered at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, is an organization established to promote the study of time capsules. Since 1990 it has been documenting all types of time capsule projects worldwide.


The founders are time capsule researchers from the United States and Europe with several years experience. They consult other organizations on time capsule projects.

  • Knute Berger ("Skip"), is an author based in Seattle. He is the executive director of the Washington Centennial Time Capsule project. He wrote Time Capsules in America in The People's Almanac #2 (1978).
  • Dr. Brian Durrans is the anthropologist and deputy keeper in the ethnography department of the British Museum.
  • Paul Hudson. He wrote The Oglethorpe Atlanta Crypt of Civilization Time Capsule in the Georgia Historical Quarterly (1991). The New York Times labels him, the foremost authority on time capsules. Paul Hudson spoke at the Smithsonian Institute workshop "Time in a Bottle: Creating a Time Capsule Project" in October, 1999.
  • William Jarvis is head of acquisitions and serials at Washington State University Library. He wrote Time Capsules in the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science (1988).


The International Time Capsule Society states in their handout brochure as their mission:

To maintain a registry of all known time capsules.

To establish a clearing house for information about time capsules.

To encourage study of the history, variety and motivation behind time capsule projects.

To educate the general public and the academic community concerning the value of time capsules.


The International Time Capsule Society is an organization dedicated to tracking the world's time capsules to ensure that those that are created are not lost as many have been throughout recorded history. The ITCS has set up a registry database of time capsule projects worldwide. In the last few years alone they estimate that there has been over 5,000 time capsules made.

The ITCS estimates there are between 10,000 to 15,000 time capsules worldwide. Most of these time capsules' whereabouts are presently not known and there is no recorded information on them. Paul Hudson, one of the International Time Capsule Society's original founders and a history professor at Oglethorpe University, estimates that more than 80 percent of all time capsules made are lost and will not be opened on their intended date. He says about 1,400 groups have presently registered with ITCS. He figures an estimated 10,000 time capsules' whereabouts are not known and forgotten about by the original builders and society. He thinks that only about one in a thousand will ever be opened.

The International Time Capsule Society recommends you list a time capsule project with them or Dr. Brian Durrans, Deputy Keeper, Ethnology Department, at the British Museum in London, England. Organizations from the United States, Canada and Europe have written to the society to register their time capsule projects for future generations so that a record of their existence is known.

The ITCS holds conferences on a regular bases at Oglethorpe University at their campus in Atlanta, Georgia. Members from around the world meet to discuss time capsule projects. Guests are welcome to attend to pool their knowledge on time capsules as well as learn from ITCS members.

Crypt of Civilization

The International Time Capsule Society is the home of the world's first successful time capsule, the Crypt of Civilization located at Oglethorpe University. The location of the university was chosen for the International Time Capsule Society because it was felt that it was a natural place since major studies of time capsules are done there.

History of Oglethorpe University reveals that Thornwell Jacobs, its president in 1935, was struck by the information regarding ancient civilizations when engaged in research on ancient historical materials when writing one of his books on the uncovering of the Egyptian tombs in the Valley of the Kings. He was astonished by the 1922 King Tutankhamen discovery. Jacobs then devised plans for the Crypt of Civilization in an effort to preserve human knowledge for the people of the future. He sought the help of Thomas K. Peters to assist him. Work on the Crypt of Civilization started in August, 1937, and continued until June, 1940.

Among the items put in the Crypt of Civilization were 200 books of fiction; drawings of all of our inventions made to scale such as our means of transportation, records of sport events, amusements, pastimes, games in vogue during the last century; motion pictures of historical events since 1898; still photographs giving the history of the United States since 1840; sound motion pictures of the great men and women of the world; sound records of important radio speeches, motion pictures of industrial processes; medical and surgical subjects, views of the great cities of the world, newsreels, dramatic subjects and educational pictures in all subjects. So that vandals would not be tempted there were no gold, silver, or jewels included in the crypt.

Construction of a time capsule

The International Time Capsule Society provides eight tips for building a time capsule.

1. Select a retrieval date. A 50-year or less time capsule may be witnessed by your own generation. The longer the duration, the more difficult the task. Centennial (100-year) time capsules are popular. 2. Choose an "archivist" or director. Committees are good to share the work load, but a single person needs to direct the project.

3. Select a container. A safe is a good choice. As long as the interior is cool, dry, and dark artifacts can be preserved. (One of the earliest time capsules was the Century Safe for the Centennial Exposition of 1876.) For ambitious - century or more - projects, there are professional time capsule companies about which the ITCS can provide information.

4. Find a secure indoor location. It is not recommended that time capsules be "buried" - thousands have been lost in this way. It is important that the location be marked with a plaque describing the "mission" of the time capsule.

5. Secure items for time storage. Many things your committee selects will have meaning into the future. Try to have a mix of items from the sublime to the trivial. Items are usually donated. The archivist should keep an inventory of all items sealed in the time capsule.

6. Have a solemn "sealing ceremony" where you formally christen the time capsule with a name. Invite the media and keep a good photographic record of your efforts, including the inside of your completed project.

7. Don't forget your time capsule! You would be surprised how often this happens, usually within a short time. Try to "renew" the tradition of memory with anniversaries and reunions. You might also send out invitations to the projected opening. Use your creativity at all times.

8. Inform the International Time Capsule Society of your completed time capsule project. The International Time Capsule Society will add your time capsule to its database in an attempt to register all known time capsules.

Most wanted time capsules

The International Time Capsule Society is in search of nine time capsules that supposedly at one time existed, however are presently lost. It requests that the whereabouts of any of the lost capsules be reported to them. A list of the "10 Most Wanted Time Capsules" was released in 1991 by the original founders of the society. To date only one has been found. It is the Kingsley Dam Time Capsule.

According to the International Time Capsule Society and Oglethorpe University below are the remaining nine lost time capsules, a couple of which may recently have been found.

Bicentennial Wagon Train Time Capsule

This capsule was supposed to hold the signatures of 22 million Americans. But on July 4, 1976, when President Gerald Ford arrived for the sealing ceremony in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, someone stole the capsule from an unattended van in the bicentennial wagon train. The capsule's maker, the Reynolds Company, had broken the mold. The thief’s identity and the whereabouts of the capsule are unsolved mysteries.

MIT Cyclotron Time Capsule

In 1939 a group of MIT engineers placed a brass capsule beneath an 18-ton -magnet used in a brand new, state-of-the-art cyclotron. The capsule was to be opened in 50 years but was not. No one remembered the time capsule was there (the cyclotron had long since been deactivated). But when reminded of its existence, MIT was faced with another problem: how do you get a time capsule out from under a 36,000-pound lid?

Corona, California, Time Capsules

The City of Corona seems to have misplaced a series of 17 time capsules dating back to the 1930s. Efforts to recover the capsules in 1986 were in vain. "We just tore up a lot of concrete around the civic center, "said the chairman of the town's centennial committee. A Los Angeles Times reporter has called Corona "the individual record holder in the fumbled time capsule category."

The M*A*S*H Time Capsule

Buried by cast members of the hit TV show in a secret ceremony, the capsule contained props and costumes of the show. It was buried in January 1983 -- somewhere, no one will say -- in the 20th Century Fox parking lot in Hollywood. The lot has shrunk in size, so the time capsule may be under a Marriott Hotel now. Update: According to CNN, Alan Alda recounts in his book, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, that the M*A*S*H time capsule was found by a construction worker shortly after the show ended. When the worker tried to return the capsule to Alda and the rest of the M*A*S*H cast, Alda told him to keep it.

George Washington's Cornerstone

Today's custom of burying time capsules is in part an outgrowth of Masonic cornerstone-laying ceremonies. Through the centuries, Masons have officiated at rituals which often include placing memorabilia inside building cornerstones for later recovery. In 1793, George Washington, a Mason, performed the Masonic ritual upon the laying of the original cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol. Over the years, the Capitol has undergone extensive expansion, remodeling and reconstruction, but the original George Washington cornerstone has never been found. It is unknown whether there is anything inside of it.

The Gramophone Company Time Capsule

In 1907, Hayes, Middlesex, England, sound recordings on disc were deposited behind the foundation stone of the new Gramophone Company factory (later HMV, later EMI) by the opera singer (later Dame) Nellie Melba. During reconstruction work in the 1960s, the container was officially removed, but before it could be reburied, someone ran off with it. The whereabouts of these priceless master-pressings of Melba and other stars remains a mystery.

Washington Territorial Centennial Time Capsule

In 1953 Washington state celebrated its territorial centennial by burying a two-ton time capsule on the state capitol campus in Olympia. The legislature failed to approve funds to mark the site, and the capsule was lost until 1959. However, records indicate that a supplementary time capsule was prepared in 1953 for burial alongside the main capsule. The location and contents of the second capsule are unknown. The capsule may have been interred as planned; its reported location was a closet at the capitol. Update: it appears that this capsule was found in 2002.

Blackpool Tower

In Blackpool, Lancashire, England, a foundation deposit was interred in the late 19th century with the customary ceremony. When a search was organized recently in preparation for new building work, not even remote sensing equipment or a clairvoyant could locate the time capsule.

The Lyndon, Vermont, Time Capsule

First mentioned in an 1891 Vermont newspaper, the capsule is an iron box containing proceedings of the town's centennial celebration. It was scheduled to be opened on July 4, 1991. Citizens have looked in the town vault, the bank and the library but have not found the box. The time capsule may not have been buried at all, since some ceremonies were canceled due to rain. Lyndon residents have vowed not to lose their new time capsule which is set to be sealed July 4.

Points of interest

A philosophy at the turn of the millennium was that If you make a time capsule, don't bury it Paul Hudson of the International Time Capsule Society said speaking to journalist Howard Mansfield of Farmer's Almanac 2000 Tidbits.

New Zealand developed a time capsule project called "Millennium Vault" for the turn of the 20th-century century. The project developers buried it beneath a pyramid. In it represents 1,000 years of New Zealand history.

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