I love time capsules. But I just had the strangest realization. When teachers have their students contribute items to time capsules, it’s kind of like stealing.
I came to this bizarre realization while reading a story in Newsday with this opening paragraph (emphasis mine):
In the past few weeks since a story about Richard Siegelman’s quest to find contributors to the Bermingham School’s time capsule of 1963 was published Feb. 14 in Act 2, he’s been contacted by about three dozen former students looking to retrieve their childhood relics.
I guess when you put it that way, having kids make time capsules does sound like a form of theft. Granted, it’s merely a harmless form of theft engaged in by an authority figure. But it’s still kind of weird, right?
The time capsule in question here was created in 1963 at the Bermingham School in Oyster Bay, New York. And many of the people who were children when the time capsule was created are now dead. But some of the surviving family members would still like their stuff back too.
“The most gratifying aspect of this experience has been being able to give a long-lost ‘piece’ of the childhood of eight now-deceased Time Capsule ‘kids’ to their [relatives],” Richard Siegelman, the 72-year-old keeper of the time capsule, told Newsday.
The “artifacts” include photos, school projects, and unspecified recordings of some type. Newsday has even published some of the requests from the former students and relatives who would like to see the things they contributed over 50 years ago:
I did not see anything that would belong to me other than a picture of my father (Bob Doran) who was a custodian at the school. (He passed away 27 years ago.) My mom is 92 and would love that picture.
Verna Doran Maidel
Time capsules really are magic when they’re done right. Magical theft, but magic just the same.
Another letter to Mr. Siegelman, the keeper of the capsule contents:
Someone said you had a recording from a time capsule at Birmingham, and my sister Ange (Vickers) may be on it. I would love to have a copy to share it with my sister Pam, and brother Jeff. Sad to say, Ange passed away last year. I’m sure her kids and grandchild would love to hear it as well.
I joke, of course, about time capsules being a form of theft. They’re a strange but sometimes satisfying way for people to connect with the past. Especially after they’ve last someone who may show up in an unexpected way—time travel through boxes we make in an often futile attempt to live beyond our years.
Like taking candy from a baby. And then giving the candy back to the baby when it’s all grown up or dead in the ground.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.