Time capsules: The Crypt of Civilisation

Time capsules were a bit of a thing in the 1940s and 50s. The Crypt of Civilisation is thought of as the first ‘modern’ time capsule—in 1940, when the Crypt was sealed shut, we didn’t even call them time capsules yet.

The Crypt is located in the basement of a building at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia. A collection of ‘everyday’ items from the early twentieth century are contained inside a waterproofed room, sealed behind a stainless seal door. The crypt is due to be opened in 8,113—6,117 years after it was closed and 6,117 after the first recorded date in history (apparently 4,241BC).

The Crypt contains all sorts of things, including (but not limited to) microfilms of classic literature, a phonograph machine and recordings, toys, toiletries, Formica samples, binoculars, a grapefruit corer, a pair of ladies stockings, beer, ashtrays, a pair of dentures and the intriguingly described “1 lady’s breast form”. Sensitive items were placed in glass-lined stainless steel containers. (Corning glass; American Can Company stainless steel). Air was also evacuated from these containers, to prevent oxidation of the contents.

Oglethorpe University also hosts the International Time Capsule Society (ITCS)—with whom, incidentally, you can register your own time capsule. By maintaining a database of time capsules, ITCS hope to decrease the chance of time capsules being lost or forgotten. Will the database last until 8,113? Will Atlanta? Alas, none of us will be around to find out.

The Crypt of Civilisation, as it appeared in 1940. (Not my photo, obv.)

The Crypt of Civilisation, as it appeared in 1940. (Not my photo, obv.)