Sunday, January 9, 2022

Time Capsules

The term “Time Capsule” was coined for the publicity of the 1939 New York World’s Fair capsule that followed a long tradition of containers holding collections of memorabilia intended to inform future generations and made as air and watertight as current technology allowed.

I was surprised to learn that there is a register kept by the International Time Capsule Society at Oglethorpe University that estimates there are between 10,000 to 15,000 Time Capsules worldwide, with most of them lost. In 2020 Ogelthorpe University turned over all their records to the “Notforgotten Digital Preservation Library” which is now digitizing that catalog.

Locations of Time Capsules

The library also offers to preserve personal time capsules they will help you record. For an organization that deals in the past it is fascinating that they have linked up with the Ethereum Blockchain which only went online in 2015 and, according to what I have read, gives total security to the maintenance of the information. I can hear my wife, now, saying “until the next technology comes along.” The blockchain I is what keeps Crypto Currencies and NFT’s secure enough to invest in.

At present the official definition for a Blockchain “is a system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system. A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain.” Do note the words, “difficult or impossible” … well which is it?

Recent headlines announced the discovery of a second Time Capsule in the pedestal under the 1887 Statue of General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, now headed to its new home at the Black History Museum. What I did not understand was what was the first?

Dale M. Brumfield, a journalist and author had written an article 4 years ago saying that he found documents suggesting that there was a Time Capsule under the Lee monument containing Confederate artifacts, weapons used in the Civil War and a piece of wood cut from a tree near the grave of General Stonewall Jackson. Therefore, the first discovery made a week before was not what they expected. It was a led box that contained an 1875 Almanac, a waterlogged book of fiction, a British coin, a catalog, one letter and a photograph of James Netherwood, a master stonemason who worked on the pedestal and clearly wanted to commemorate himself.

Devon Henry, who oversees the company that was assigned to remove the statue was, however, determined to find the one they were looking for. Even though they had already dug 15 feet down below the pedestal, he had his team dig further and at 20 feet below the surface they found a granite capstone protecting the sought-after Time Capsule. Katherine Ridgway, the state archeological conservator at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources cut into the 36-pound copper box measuring 13.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches. Before she started, however, because there was the possibility of explosives inside, they first x-rayed it and had the bomb squad examine it. I presume that fear came from the fact that they hoped to find Confederate munitions. Here Katherine Ridgeway, excited to see the box gets on her knees to wrap it as well as her showing fellow historians and the press the contents of the Time Capsule (photos for the AP by Eva Russo Sarah Rankin).

The copper box contained Confederate money, 12 copper coins, an edition of Harper's Weekly from 1865, military memorabilia, multiple books including directories and a Holy Bible, a wood flag and a Masonic symbol allegedly carved from the tree that grew above Gen. Stonewall Jackson's original grave.

The contents were in better shape than they expected even though some items were wet, but the box also held some disappointment. An issue of the Richmond Dispatch from October 1887 gave clues as to what they could expect to find, the most exciting of which was a photo of President Abraham Lincoln in his casket. Alas, it turned out to be a mass-produced printed engraving from a newspaper of 1865 or a reprint and it had already been mended a number of times. The dreams of discovery are often tempered by reality.

What would you put in your time capsule?

No comments:

Post a Comment