Photo: Oglethorpe University
Who knew that this year's graduating high school seniors could choose time capsules as an area of study? Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia is home to the International Time Capsule Society(ITCS) which has been tracking every type of time capsule project worldwide since 1990. The University hosts meetings on campus which is also home to the Crypt of Civilization, deemed by Guinness Book of World Records as the first modern time capsule and "...the first successful attempt to bury a record for future inhabitants" on Earth. Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, president of Oglethorpe from 1915 to 1943 had a vision for the school to house the epic time capsule.
In the November 1936 issue of Scientific American magazine, Dr. Jacobs described his plan to create a permanent record of what life was like on Earth for any future inhabitants, essentially creating a time capsule. The Crypt was sealed in 1940, not to be opened until the year 8113 A.D. Here is an excerpt from Oglethorpe University's website of what was collected for the venture:
"The organization plan called for the microfilming of authoritative books on every subject of importance known to mankind. This list of reference and textbooks covered some 800 works including: 200 books of fiction; drawings of all of our inventions made to scale such as our means of transportation, communication, etc.; a record of the sports, amusements, pastimes and games in vogue during the last century; motion pictures of historical events since 1898; still photographs giving the history of the United States since 1840; sound motion pictures of the great men and women of the world; sound records of important radio speeches, motion pictures of industrial processes; medical and surgical subjects; views of the great cities of the world; sports pastime, newsreels, and dramatic subjects; educational pictures in all subjects, an apparatus for teaching the English language in case it is no longer spoken; actual samples of objects of our daily life; scientific, navigation, and aviation instruments; projection apparatus for motion pictures; reading devices for the microfilm; artificial aids to sight; artificial arms, dentures, wigs, etc.; weights and measures current in the world today; measuring instruments; seeds of flowers, plants, vegetables, fruits, and trees; drawings and paintings; paper mache models of fruits and vegetables; artificial flowers; clothing, models of jewelry, no gold, silver, or jewels are included to tempt vandals. The Crypt, located under Phoebe Hearst Hall, is a room 20 feet long, 10 feet high and 10 feet wide (60 palms long, 30 palms wide and 30 palms high). The Crypt, resting on a bed rock with 2 feet of stone above it, is lined with porcelain enamel plates embedded in pitch. It is sealed with a great stainless steel door, welded in place.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
So, if you want to know where a time capsule may be buried, anywhere in the world, the International Time Capsule Society is the group call. The school boasts a registry of 1,400 members and estimates that there are up to 15,000 time capsules worldwide. Sadly, though, Oglethorpe's Paul Hudson estimates that 80 percent of all time capsules are lost, never to be opened as hopeful visionaries once intended. Thankfully though, with the group's research and use of new technology, like GPS coordinates, more capsules can be found, saved and studied years from now.