A swimming-pool-sized room in Atlanta, Ga. hasn’t seen the light of day since 1940, and it won’t for another 6,1oo years.
To provide more evidence for future generations than we have about the past, then-president of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Thornwell Jacobs, turned this room into the first modern time capsule, called the Crypt of Civilisation.
Even though another time capsule appeared at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, Jacobs started building his version in 1936 and may have inspired the one at the Fair. Thus the Guinness World Book of Records declared the crypt “the first successful attempt to bury a record for any future inhabitant” of Earth.
In 1936, exactly 6,177 years had passed since the invention of the Egyptian calendar. In another 6,177, the Earth would see year 8113 — the year Jacobs gave for the crypt’s opening.
The crew spent 33 months compiling the knowledge we’ve acquired over the last 6,000 years. The room’s contents include more than 800 works of every subject known to mankind; notable recordings, like Adolf Hitler ‘s speeches and birds singing; everyday items such as pantyhose, electric razors, and clothing; toys like a Donald Duck figurine and Lincoln Logs, and even strange items like “lady’s breast form.”
Notably, Jacobs also included a Language Integrator, a hand-operated machine that plays cartoons which would hopefully teach the openers in 8113 how to speak English.
Read the full list here.
The National Bureau of Standards, which advised the project, suggested placing many items in glass-lined stainless steel containers filled with nitrogen to prevent ageing, according to the Georgia Encyclopedia.
In 1990, the 50th anniversary of the crypt’s closing, faculty at the university created the International Time Capsule Society.
Jacobs, who passed in 1956, left this “Message to the Generations of 8113,” on a plague outside the room:
“This Crypt contains memorials of the civilisation which existed in the United States and the world at large during the first half of the twentieth century. In receptacles of stainless steel, in which the air has been replaced by inert gasses, are encyclopedias, histories, scientific works, special editions of newspapers, travelogues, travel talks, cinema reels, models, phonograph records, and similar materials from which an idea of the state and nature of the civilisation which existed from 1900 to 1950 can be ascertained. No jewels or precious metals are included.
We depend upon the laws of the county of DeKalb, the State of Georgia, and the government of the United States and their heirs, assigns, and successors, and upon the sense of sportsmanship of posterity for the continued preservation of this vault until the year 8113, at which time we direct that it shall be opened by authorities representing the above governmental agencies and the administration of Oglethorpe University. Until that time we beg of all persons that this door and the contents of the crypt within may remain inviolate.”
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