Earlier this week, historians opened up a time capsule from the Massachusetts State House in Boston. The time capsule was originally buried by Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and William Scollay, a local developer.
It’s a small box that contains goodies such as some newspapers, some coins, a Massachusetts commonwealth seal, an inscribed silver plate and a title page from the era when Massachusetts was a colony. Around 1855, the box was opened, the contents cleaned up and some new coins were added before the capsule was reburied.
I’d love to read the stories in those newspapers. I’m guessing stories of the day, what was going on socially and possibly a few advertisements here and there. Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll find a way to transfer the contents onto the Web without damaging the papers.
I wonder: What did Paul, Samuel and William think as the box vanished from their sight, never to be seen again in their lifetimes? Did they ride off for a tankard of ale afterward at a local tavern, get into conversation and speculate about all of us and what we’d be like? Did they imagine the technological improvements we’ve experienced since 1795? Did they think about what kind of newspapers and books we’d write and read?
Time capsules speak in their own way. They tell us what people of the past valued enough to send to the future and they act as the voices of our ancestors.
It’s too bad we can’t talk to people like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Given his love of gadgetry, TJ would be particularly fascinated by iPads, iPods, smartphones and the Internet, don’t you think?
When I was in elementary school, we buried a time capsule on the grounds of the school. As I recall, we put in items such as a yearbook and some toys typical of our era. I did have the chance to see what happened to the capsule, since my grade school was later converted to an administrative center. The time capsule was dug up and its contents displayed during a party to celebrate the closing of the school. The paper contents had yellowed with time but were still readable.
Walking around the hallways of my elementary school that day was also a trip through time. As a project, our art teacher let us paint historical buildings on the walls in the hallways. The hallway walls were covered over with new paint but our artwork is still there underneath, waiting to be discovered. Maybe someone doing repairs will find them someday – an artistic time capsule.
I wonder if any time capsules have ever had letters in them so that the people of the past could communicate with the people of the future. And if they did, what did the letters say?
Blog readers: Have you ever participated in a time capsule project? If you wrote a letter that would be included in a time capsule for future generations, what would you want to say?