12 June 2010

Time to Think About the Future: Burying a Time Capsule

For the Grand Opening of Small Pond Arts, we wanted to do something ceremonial to mark the occasion, and we thought that burying a time capsule would be a perfect way to do just that. I talked about the burial ceremony in a previous post, but thought I’d go into a little more detail about our process of putting it together. In our modern-day culture we have so few non-religious rites; this project reminded us of the value of  an inclusive, non-secular ritual as a way of bringing people together, and added a deeper significance to our celebration.
The crowd waits for the ceremony to begin

I started by ordering The Dead Good Time Capsule Book from those brilliant people at Welfare State International, writers of two of my other favourite books, Engineers of the Imagination and Eyes on Stalks.

Reading the book was an excellent place to begin, as it discusses a number of different ways to approach a time capsule project, particularly for large groups of people. We decided that we wanted as many people to contribute to our capsule as possible, and we wanted the contents to be as diverse as the contributors themselves. Here is the invitation that went out to our friends, family, neighbours, and the internet in general:

“As part of our grand opening celebrations, we’ll be burying a time capsule to be opened in May 2035. We’d like to invite you to contribute something to our time capsule. What would you like to place in the palms of the future?  Contributions should be small in size, as the cylindrical capsule is 5.5" diameter by 22" high, and we want as many people to contribute as possible. Some ideas for what you could contribute are: a message, a photo, a wish, a song, a recipe, a poem, a keepsake, a drawing, a story, a toy, jewelry, currency, textiles, newspaper or magazine clippings, or anything else you think reflects life in 2010. Let your imagination guide you, but choose materials that are unlikely to decay with age, and media that won’t be obsolete by 2035. We will have some acid-free paper available at the party if you would like to write something at that time.”

My grandparents, Jack and Marion, just prior to the ceremony

I ordered the Time Capsule from Future Packaging, opting for the “Mrs. Future” model. It is made of stainless steel and came with a variety of packaging to separate and preserve items inside the capsule, as well as oxygen absorber, acid free paper, and sealing materials. It was a little on the expensive side, but I figured if we were going to do this, we had to do it right. It would be really disappointing to dig this thing up in 25 years and find a pile of dust!  There are a number of other, less expensive, DIY ways to do a time capsule; particularily if you are not burying it in the ground or sealing it up for a very long time.

Make sure nobody falls in the time capsule hole before the burial!

More than 30 people contributed to the time capsule, many with multiple items, and the contributions were all wonderful, ranging from thoughtful and personal to the downright silly!

One of my favourite contributions came from the Clarke family, who lived in our house for 87 years and after whom our road is named. Sisters Ann, Brenda and Sandra stopped by with their mother Betty a few days before the party. They hadn’t been in the house since it had been sold seven years ago; we took them on a tour of the house and they regaled us with family stories and childhood memories. It was an emotional visit, but good for all of us – they felt happy that this special place was in good hands, and we felt that we had their blessing to be here. Their contributions to the time capsule were deeply personal and an important step towards preserving the historical record of our house. The items the sisters contributed were Harry Clarke's obituary notice, who bought the farm in 1915 (the sisters’ grandfather), Don Clarke's death notice (the sisters’ father), he inherited the farm on their grandfather's passing, a letter from Brenda that was read at their father’s funeral, and a picture of their father and three brothers, Robert, Fred and Howard.

The ladies Clarke: Ann Pappas, Brenda Clarke-Campbell, Betty Clarke and Sandra Sharpe

We knew that the party was going to be big and chaotic (in a good way!), so we designated a table in the dining room as the Time Capsule Station; when people dropped off their items, they signed a registry with their name and a description of their items. People enjoyed perusing the items on display. I made the very smart move of delegating the organizing of the capsule to my sister Caitlin (Time Capsule Captain), who was assisted by my other two sisters, Meagan and Brittany. With 100 people coming and going over the course of the weekend, there was no way that I could be responsible for organizing all the items that came pouring in whilst I was playing hostess.

Some of the time capsule contents

However, because I was not organizing the items, I didn’t see much of what went into the capsule! The registry also went into the capsule, so we'll be truly surprised when we open it in 2035. These are some of the items that I know went in: a copy of the local paper from that week along with flyers from the grocery store, photos of the house and the silo, photos of my parents, a picture of Small Pond as drawn by my 4-year old niece and a photo of her holding said drawing, a wishing feather, some very goofy gag glasses, a photo of a neighbouring family along with some Canadian coins, Milé’s dad’s zippo lighter, a ceramic pin by brilliant Toronto artist Barbara Klunder, a message in a water bottle from our friend Sheila, a letter from my grandmother, a cookie cutter from my sister along with the gingerbread recipe we traditionally make every holiday season, a disposable camera with pictures from the party, a drawing of the silo by Milé, a DVD with something Olympic-related on it, a bracelet from a neighbour, a sticker, a button, an ID card, a whistle… and who knows what other mystery items?? We’ll have to wait and find out!

My niece Brooklynn will be almost 30 when the time capsule is dug up!

The capsule was sealed first with silicone and then with wax. We placed it in a big clear garbage bag for good measure. The outside of the Time Capsule is marked “Time Capsule” in case someone should stumble upon it.

The future belongs to the children - my little cousin Olivia helps bury the time capsule

What really worked about our ceremony was involving everyone in the burial of the capsule. We asked each person to help bury it, and we asked everyone to pass over the buried capsule and “into the future.” This was really important as it brought everyone into the ceremony; whether or not they contributed an item they still got to take part.

Guy and Nel look pretty happy to be stepping into the future together

The final step of this project was to register the capsule with the International Time Capsule Society. This registry was established because the society estimates there are approximately 10,000 capsules worldwide, most of them lost!  Hopefully by registering this capsule either we or our families will be able to locate it in 25 years.  The ITCS website is also an excellent resource, and has some great reading on it, such as The Nine Most Wanted Time Capsules.

The time capsule turned out to be one of the highlights of our grand opening. Now we just have to wait 9,106 days until we can open it. Until then, I wish you a future full of art!

No comments:

Post a Comment