Jeff Burgar

How does one decide what to put in a time capsule?

A few days ago, about 150 (a fitting number, it being Canada’s 150th anniversary) watched excitedly as the High Prairie time capsule, was cracked open. The actually time capsule was in a small lead box that had to be broken open. This was after about three hours of previous work breaking apart the cement that was poured around the box.

Inside were newspapers from the day, both black and white and colour photos, brochures about the region, a letter from then mayor Terry Anderson addressed to whomever might be the current mayor, a town map, and knick knacks and things from 1967.

And, it being only fifty years since the capsule was buried, there were many people attending who were around who were there back then, and who were there when it was opened. For them, and everybody else gathered, it was indeed exciting to be part of history being made five decades apart.

Maybe that’s the best part of putting away a time capsule. And the best part of when it is opened. It isn’t so much what is in a time capsule, its the feeling one is a part of history being made.

It could be said that time capsules are put away with the hope that in future years, there will be people to open them. There will be a civilization to appreciate the thoughts that went into the capsule. And if not a future civilization that has advanced, perhaps still people who might look back at the contents as coming from a better time worth striving for. For those at the opening, it actually symbolizes yes indeed, we are still here. We made it! And yes, our community, including what were children back then, and many of the buildings and institutions, have survived.

So it could be argued, time capsules are not really buried with optimism, as a message from the past. If that were the case, why not just fill up some boxes with memorabilia of the day, and all kinds of messages from the current gaggle of mucky mucks? In fact, we do that already. Not so much the messages, but we have huge boxes. We call them museums.

In High Prairie’s case, it’s a quaint irony the time capsule was buried as part of the celebrations of a new library, but also a museum. So in a sense, the folk of the day could be said to be expecting the building and contents might be gone, but the capsule would be preserved. After all, if one wants to read a newspaper from 1967, both the museum and existing newspaper have copies from back then. If one wants photos, they abound. And so it goes. Yet, it was still very, very exciting for everybody.

The next capsule? Probably, if one thinks this through, there will be items that might not exist in the future. Real money. Diamonds and gold perhaps. Or a lump of coal. A manual for a gasoline motor. In fact, all things that would find a home in a museum or its store rooms. And of course, messages. We think from youngsters would be the best. And if worse did come to worse? Seeds? Instruction manuals? How to build something? As is often said, you never know when you might need one of these. Even 50 years from now.