Stuffing a Better Time Capsule

What would you put in your time capsule? Here’s my packing list.

I’m usually disappointed when I read of found time capsules being opened; the contents are somewhat of a letdown for me. A telegraph machine, a pocket watch, some coins and stamps, the front page of a newspaper declaring a prominently historical event.

I get that those were all big ticket news items back when they were sealed up for posterity. But they always leave me unsatisfied when I hear about them because they’ve already been so well documented and preserved elsewhere (museums, microfiche, documentaries, etc.).

More fascinating to me are the time capsule contents that were never written into American history with indelible ink. Little-known hand tools for outdated applications, unpopular books, common obituaries and law enforcement blotters.

In talking about this topic today with Ben, I started thinking about what I’d put in my own time capsule that might illuminate today’s ephemera and fascinate future generations. Without overthinking this, here’s what I’d put in my 2015 time capsule:

  • Food, beverage, and drug labels — Based on current trends, my great, great, great, great, great grandkids would probably be shocked (and disgusted?) to see what 21st centurians were pumping into our mortal coils.
  • State and local road maps — If future history carries on the same way the past 100 years or so have road-wise, we could have a starkly different looking interstate system. And even if we’ve evolved our highway and road system as far as we ever will in America, other unprecedented events could drastically reshape what we see on our 2015 maps: hurricanes, wars on home soil, massive floods, a super volcano? — EDIT: Thanks to some feedback from Brandon, I have to strike this one from the list. Good call, man: maps will have been thoroughly documented in several places. Kind of a dumb oversight on my part. But no matter, the list gets better!
  • Copies of my monthly household budget for the past year— I’m going to bet that if you and I compared our budgets, they’d look and feel pretty different. But imagine the canyon of differences between how you manage your money and how your ancestors spent, save, and gave theirs. Healthcare costs, alone, would be insightful to compare. And retirement savings. Heck, maybe the concept of a budget at all will confuse people in the far future.
  • My bank account and credit card transactions for the past year — Similar to a monthly budget, but far more revealing (and honest). I wonder how humans in 2215 would react to seeing how much I spent on gasoline. Or digital music. Or clothes. Or…yikes…donuts.
  • Printed Google results pages for 25 or so various searches, ranging from pop culture and current events topics, to rare and obscure terms — Granted, I work in digital marketing, so I’m predisposed to care about mundane things like this. But think about the prominence of Google’s role in your life. You consult it, talk with it, feed it personally intimate details, and in more ways than you realize, heed the advice it serves you. Printing and preserving just a cross-section sample of these results could give future civilizations a little glimpse of how we lived.
  • Best Buy, Target, Walgreen’s, and local grocery store catalogs/circulars — I love saving and perusing old catalogs. The fashions are humorous, the marketing is dated, and it all seems pretty near-sighted and silly by today’s standards. Similarly, I’m pretty sure folks in the year 2350 will get a kick out of our styles and possibly be amazed at the costs of computer flash memory relative to, say, fresh fruit.
  • Five or so vacuum-sealed, preserved bees — Cause apparently we’re running out of bees. You’re welcome, future. Reanimate!
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