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January 05, 2007

The world's first time capsule

interior of the time capsule at Oglethorpe University

In the bowels of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta is perhaps one of the oddest rooms ever, the Oglethorpe Atlanta Crypt of Civilization. The room... built within an underground swimming pool, lined with porcelain and granite walls, covered by a seven foot thick stone ceiling, sealed behind a massive stainless steel door that's been welded shut...is the world's first time capsule.

The room was designed and built in the late 1930s and sealed in 1940. If everything goes to plan (one big, hairy, whopping, mother of all "if"s), the room will be opened again in the year 8113 A.D.(*)

All time capsules are wonderfully naive mixes of optimism about the future and cluelessness about what future civilizations will consider important, and this one is no exception. Consider some of the objects lovingly preserved for the future:

1 coffee set (drip coffee maker, cream and sugar)
1 Comptometer, Ser. no. J246635
1 transcription (Premier of Canada)
a device to teach the English language to the Crypt's finders
6 recordings (Artie Shaw)
1 set Lincoln Logs
1 container of beer (about one quart)
1 package containing 6 miniature panties, 5 miniature shirts, 3 drawers

So far the Crypt of Civilization has made it 1.08% of the way to the day it's scheduled to be opened, so it's still pretty early to get cocky. For instance, it's amazing how often time capsules get broken into, stolen, or just plain misplaced.

Thanks to the extraordinary Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society website for the pointer.

(*)Why the odd opening date of 8113 A.D.? Well, the first known recorded date in human history is 4241 B.C. There were 6177 years between then and 1940, the year the Crypt of Civilization was sealed. Go another 6177 years in the future, and you reach 8113 A.D.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at January 5, 2007 08:04 PM