Make your own time capsule

Anna Johnson Mangold's funeral. She died during the 1918 flu epidemic. Photographer Jagoda Clark. The picture was upload
Anna Johnson Mangold’s funeral. She died during the 1918 flu epidemic. Photographer Jagoda Clark. The picture was uploaded to the Fortepan Iowa Project on December 23, 2019.

Time capsules are a way to collect and save memories of a time and a place.

In 1876, a New York magazine publisher named Anna Deihm created the “Century Safe.” It was a metal safe that she lined in purple velvet and filled with relics from that year, including a gold pen and inkstand, a collection of Americans’ signatures, and snapshots of President Ulysses S. Grant and other politicians taken by the photographer Mathew Brady.

The Century Safe was moved to the White House, where everyone seemed to forget about it for a while. But 100 years later, in 1976, it was opened on the 200-year anniversary of America’s founding. All those relics told a story from the distant past.

The oldest time capsule in America was made by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, two of the men who founded the United States. It was placed inside a cornerstone in the Massachusetts State House building in 1795. When the capsule was opened in 2015, it was like opening a treasure box. Inside were newspapers, coins and a silver plaque, most likely made by Paul Revere himself.

Not all time capsules are so grand. At the start of my senior year of high school, my English teacher had me write a letter to myself about all the things I wanted to do and be, and I got to open it up at graduation. That is a kind of time capsule.

Time capsules are fun and easy to make. First you need to decide what kind of capsule you want to make. Do you want it to last for one year or for 100?

If you want it to last a long time, you will want something that will protect your artifacts, like a metal container or a glass jar with a lid.

Other time capsules can be as simple as an envelope or maybe a shoe box you decorate. You can also buy capsules online. But you don’t need to spend any money to make a time capsule.

Once you have the capsule, you need to fill it.


You can fill the capsule with a letter you write to a future version of yourself, newspaper clippings, a coin from this year, a list of all your favorite things — that you might like now but in 10 years will have forgotten — pictures of yourself and your friends. Think about who will open it in the future? What will they want to know about you right now and the world around you?

The coronavirus time is a weird time for everyone. What would you like history to remember about what you experienced? Interview yourself or someone else in your home and ask about how they are feeling, what they are missing the most, what do they want to do when there is a vaccine?

Gather everything together and put it in your capsule, and then seal it.

It’s important that you put the capsule in a place that you will remember. Maybe high on a bookshelf or underneath your bed. Have a parent help you come up with a good place.

And then set a reminder. Maybe it’s a note in a grown-up’s calendar in one year (or more!) to open the time capsule.


05:45AM | Mon, July 06, 2020

05:40AM | Mon, July 06, 2020

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