Futurists of the world, attention! We're at it again, stuffing things into time capsules.
These are history's surprise packages, like the torpedo-shaped container that was buried 15 meters below the New York World's Fair site in 1939. That capsule, pumped full of nitrogen, was packed with everything from newsreels to a spool of thread. The instructions direct that it be opened exactly 5,000 years after the fair.
Then there's the great "Crypt of Civilization" an entire indoor swimming pool, sealed on a Georgia college campus in 1936. It holds films, sound recordings, even a bottle of Budweiser beer! That should be one dusty brew if the crypt is opened as planned in the year 8113!
The latest, most technologically ambitious time-capsule project is called "Earth Capsule." Not just one but 200 of them, actually, are to be buried all over the world and tossed into the oceans early next year and reopened, if all goes well, 50 years hence, in 2057. There won't be beer bottles or Bibles in these capsules. For a dollar or two, anyone in the world can contribute a message or a photograph that will be transferred to high-density discs sealed inside these containers.
Finding them all may be another matter, however. As University of Montana history professor Harry Fritz writes with bemusement, in 1993 folks "poked, probed, drilled, tapped, and dug" into the cornerstone of old Main Hall there in Missoula, in nervous anticipation of prying open a 96 year-old time capsule. Fortunately no one from the 19th century was around to laugh when no capsule could be found.
And of course there's one more little worry. To use the World's Fair time capsule example, how will earthlings in the year 6939 PLAY a 1939 newsreel?