Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Time Capsule History
The idea of finding a hidden piece of history and bringing it to light reminds me a lot of Indian Jones, treasure hunting and successful archival finds. But, all I could think of when the speaker was using time capsules as an analogy was how vulnerable materials in poorly constructed time capsules are.
The time capsule analogy is an interesting one. But I think it could be more aptly used to describe the fragile nature of human memory, the written word and our conceptions of history. Our insights into the past are limited by what is left behind -- records, artifacts, oral histories, and material culture. Like a poorly constructed time capsule, aspects of history that we don't actively aim to preserve often grow dim and fade into dust.
Similarly, a time capsule only shows a glimpse into an era. Often the contents of a time capsule are include because they hold significance to the creator of the capsule. But that significance or an explanation of the context surrounding the item are very rarely included inside the capsule. The items in a time capsule are like random bits of historical information, they have the potential to be important but without more information it's hard to tell what their actual value is.
On the other hand, I remember being very excited as a child about the idea of creating and saving something for future students who might attend the elementary school. Time capsules are a neat way of engaging the public with the past, they just need to be approached with a bit of knowledge about preservation and history.
Photo Credits: QuesterMark and Jessica Wilson