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International Time Capsule Society logoWhat is a Time Capsule?

The 1989 Oxford English Dictionary defines a time capsule as "a container used to store for posterity a selection of objects thought to be representative of life at a particular time."

Time capsules are interesting to people of all ages and touch people on a world-wide scale. Properly prepared time capsules preserve the salient features of history and can serve as valuable reminders of one generation for another. Time capsules give individuals, families and organizations an independent voice to the future.


The International Time Capsule Society (ITCS) is an organization established in 1990 to promote the careful study of time capsules. It strives to document all types of time capsules throughout the world. The group is headquartered at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Founding ITCS committee members have for years researched and consulted about time capsules. ITCS founders include four time capsule experts from across the United States and Europe:

  • Knute "Skip" Berger, a Seattle-based writer; executive director of the Washington Centennial Time Capsule project: author of "Time Capsules in America" in The People's Almanac #2 (1978).
  • Dr. Brian Durrans, anthropologist and consultant, formerly senior curator in the British Museum; author of “Posterity and paradox: some uses of time capsules,” in Sandra Wallman (ed.), Contemporary futures: perspectives from Social Anthropology [ASA Monographs no. 30] (London & New York, Routledge, 1992, pp.51-67).
  • Paul Hudson, author of "The Oglethorpe Atlanta Crypt of Civilization Time Capsule", in the Georgia Historical Quarterly (1991).
  • William Jarvis, former head of acquisitions/serials at Washington State University Library: author of "Time Capsules" in the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science (1988). Telephone - (509) 335-2520

Ongoing Projects

The ITCS is currently setting up a registry of time capsules. The society estimates there are approximately 10,000 capsules worldwide, most of them lost (see Harper's Index, November 1990). This ambitious project will be a continuing process and is one of the most important ITCS functions.

Register Your Time Capsule

The ITCS database will serve to remind future generations of existing capsules so they are not forgotten or lost. Many correspondents from the United States, Canada and Europe already have written to ITCS, with information on their time capsule projects. If your organization wishes to register its time capsule, you are encouraged to contact ITCS.

Annual ITCS conferences are scheduled to be held at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. ITCS members and guests from around the world meet to discuss time capsule projects and to pool their knowledge.

The inaugural meeting of ITCS was held at Oglethorpe University in the spring of 1990, on the 50th anniversary of the sealing of the Crypt of Civilization. The first ITCS meeting drew the attention of the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune London Daily Mail, ABC, CNN, the Associated Press, National Public Radio and many other media.

The Mission of ITCS

ITCS believes that as humankind approaches the new millennium, there will be increasing interest in time capsules. Therefore, the ITCS seeks:

  • To maintain a registry of all known time capsules.
  • To establish a clearing house for information about time capsules.
  • To encourage study of the history, variety and motivation behind time capsule projects.
  • To educate the general public and the academic community concerning the value of time capsules.

Why Locate the ITCS at Oglethorpe University?

Oglethorpe University is an appropriate location for the study of time capsules. It is the site of the famed Crypt of Civilization. The Guiness Book of World Records (1990) identifies the Crypt as "the first successful attempt to bury a record of this culture for any future inhabitants ...."

The Crypt was first proposed by Oglethorpe's president, Thornwell Jacobs, the "father of the modern time capsule," in an article in the November 1936 issue of Scientific American. The Crypt was sealed on May 28,1940, and it is not to be opened until May 28, 8113 A.D. Dr. Jacobs calculated this date from the first fixed date in history, 4241 B.C. when most historians believe the Egyptian calendar was established. Exactly 6177 years had passed between 4241 B.C. and 1936 A.D. Jacobs projected the same period of time forward from 1936, arriving at the year 8113 A.D. for the Crypt's opening.

The encyclopedic inventory of items in the Crypt includes, in a swimming pool size chamber, over 640,000 pages of micro-filmed material, hundreds of newsreels and recordings, a set of Lincoln logs, a Donald Duck doll and thousands of other items, many from ordinary daily life. There also is a device designed to teach the English language to the Crypt's finders.

Jacob's idea in 1936 created tremendous interest. Soon afterward the Westinghouse Company, which was building a pavilion for the 1938-39 New York World's Fair, buried a project, which was not to be opened until 6938 A.D. It was called a "Time Capsule" and our language gained a new term almost overnight.

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