Sunday, January 20, 2008

so what DO you put in a time capsule?

Long Views has an article entitled How Not to Do a Time Capsule, on a time capsule containing a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere. At the end, Kevin Kelly makes this observation:
One conclusion from this mishap is that time capsules should attempt to preserve not popular items, but things that have no fans, no enthusiasts, no one to care for them. You should stuff them with artifacts that people currently find dumb, stupid, worthless, and insignificant. That’s the stuff that won’t be saved, and will therefore be of prime interest in 100 years.
Fair 'nuff. I remember reading that there are no bread recipes that have reached us from the middle ages because bread was so common that everyone knew how to make it by heart, so they didn't bother to write it down.

But it got me thinking: what stuff today is "dumb, stupid, worthless, and insignificant"? (Ooh, and Kevin scores a point for using a serial comma!) Even further along those lines, what are things we consider dumb, stupid, worthless, or insignificant that won't wind up in the city landfill in good enough shape that future archaeologists can't just excavate them from there. Given these criteria, what would you put in a time capsule? I've been brainstorming a list:
  • A package of disposable ballpoint pens.
  • A package of disposable razors.
  • A coffee maker, filters, half a pound of vacuum-sealed, ground beans, a measuring scoop, and instructions.
  • A copy of the 2008 IRS Form 1040 and instructions.
  • A package of chewing gum.
  • A gift card to a store. Bonus style points if it's one that doesn't expire.
  • A credit card.
  • A 6-pack of major-brewery beer, in bottles. And a 6-pack of microbrew for comparison.
  • Several packages of seeds for garden flowers or vegetables (especially if it's a long-duration time capsule.)
  • A map of the area.
  • The yellow pages.
  • A box or bottle of dish soap or laundry detergent.
  • A new toothbrush and full tube of toothpaste.
Because of the landfill criterion, the inexpensive cell phone you get for free when you sign a 2 year contract didn't make the list.

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