Not Now, Perhaps Later: Time Capsules as Communications with the Future + Statement


  • Jo Ann Oravec


Time capsules are designed to remove selected objects (both physical and virtual) from the streams of everyday use and destruction, toward the goal of placing them in the reach of individuals in the future. This article describes how items are sequestered from present applications and transported to a physical and conceptual space in which they will be received at a particular time in the future with minimal alteration and modification. It analyzes inadvertent time capsule construction (tar pits and tunnels) as well as more deliberate familial, community, didactic, and survivalist varieties. Future archivists or historians are often optimistically posited in time capsule construction who are supposedly prepared to place the items in appropriate context once the capsule is opened. The article also explores the future of time capsule development with projections as to how the character of these efforts may change as the number of online capsules (and amount of digital material stored) increases.