I love time capsules. But more often than not, they're extremely boring. Most American time capsules from the 19th and 20th centuries contain a Bible, some stamps, a few coins and plenty of newspapers. Some throw in an American flag for good measure. But every once in a while there's something fascinating inside — something that makes you feel like you're not wasting everybody's time going through the pageantry of unearthing these incredibly low-tech time machines.
I first became interested in time capsules when I discovered that they often contain predictions about what life will be like when they're opened, but even when they don't have predictions for the world of the future, time capsules can still offer a fascinating peek into how past generations lived and how they wanted to be remembered.
Following is a list of some of my favorite time capsules that (as far as we know) are still sitting in cornerstones, hiding in vaults or buried underground.
George Lucas Time Capsule
- Buried at Skywalker Ranch circa 1997.
- Lucas says he doesn't even know all of the things that are inside, but years ago he told Wired that it contains "a lot of artifacts from Star Wars and from the company."
University of Pennsylvania
- Buried 1940, scheduled to be opened in 2040.
- The time capsule itself weighs 450-pounds and contains a speech that President Franklin D. Roosevelt made at the school. While it's unclear what else might be in there, weighing in at 450 pounds one hopes it could be a cryogenically frozen President Roosevelt himself.
Billings, Montana Campfire Girls Adventure Group Troop 23
- Buried 1976, scheduled to be opened in 2076 (America's Tricentennial).
- Contains a “Princess” telephone, digital watch, box of bullets, tapes of music and news programs, and Bicentennial stamps with a 1976 postmark.
Bunker Hill, Los Angeles
- Buried 1961, and was supposed to be opened May 9, 2011 though I've found no record that anyone has bothered to dig it up.
- Contains antique telephone equipment like transistors, solar batteries, and operator’s headsets.
National Millennium Time Capsule in Washington, D.C.
- Buried in 2000, scheduled to be opened in 2100.
- The time capsule includes important objects from history, including a piece of the Berlin Wall, a Hostess Twinkie, a helmet from World War II, a cellphone, and Louis Armstrong's trumpet.
English High School, Boston
- Buried in 1970, but has no scheduled opening.
- The time capsule is said to contain hockey legend Bobby Orr’s sweatshirt, but the other items remain unknown.
Crystal Lake, Illinois
- Sealed in 1976 and planned to be opened in 2076.
- Contains a $1,000 government bond.
Martin Luther King Jr. Time Capsule
- Buried in 1988 at the Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. and scheduled to be unearthed in the year 2088.
- The capsule contains some of Martin Luther King Jr.'s personal possessions along with audio cassettes people of the 1980s recorded.
Bell County Kentucky Time Capsule
- Sealed August 19, 1967, instructed to be opened August 19, 2017.
- Said to contain more than 240 items, including tape recordings from the era.
Los Angeles Bicentennial Time Capsule
- Buried 1976 and scheduled for a 2076 opening.
- This time capsule couldn't be more 1970s L.A. if it tried. The capsule contains a dress worn by Cher, a pet rock, a skateboard, and the Laker’s Jerry West’s No. 44 basketball jersey among other memorabilia. The capsule itself is a propellant tank designed for the Mariner 9 mission to Mars.
Pershing Square underground garage (Los Angeles)
- Assembled 1951, with a scheduled opening of 2951.
- It’s not clear what’s in the time capsule, but given that it’s 225 pounds and built to last 1,000 years, it could be good.
Steve Jobs Time Capsule (Update: They found the Steve Jobs Capsule!)