Capturing a Moment: The Ohio Society of Professional Engineers Time Capsule

Time Capsule created by the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers in 1978.

Time Capsule created by the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers in 1978.

At the Ohio Historical Society, the curators are often asked about unusual objects in our collection. We come across interesting objects every day when doing research for articles and exhibits. Today, I came across something intriguing in our collections facility, a centennial time capsule (catalog number H 3810) put together by the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers in 1978. I was immediately drawn to its sleek shape. It looks very futuristic, especially in its current location surrounded by colonial revival furniture. It was loaned to OHS in 1978 and will be returned to the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers in 2078.

Time capsules have been around for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Mesopotamia. Early time capsules were generally made of clay. The discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun, popularly known as King Tut, set off a worldwide craze. Hundreds were inspired to document and preserve what their life was like at that moment. Time capsules have been buried across the country on college campuses, sites of World’s Fairs, and local communities. Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia hosts the International Time Capsule Society. Today’s time capsules are generally made of metal and are water proof.

Often the items placed in time capsules do not include things, like diaries, that capture what is happening in daily life. Instead they are often filled with examples of popular material culture like books, movies, and music. This can be a source of tension for those putting together a collection for a small time capsule. This reoccurring debate was even featured in an episode of the television show Parks and Recreation.

Photograph depicting the Green County Bar Association in 1901.  The photograph was placed in a time capsule made from a copper box and placed in the cornerstone of the new Green County Courthouse in 1901. The box was was opened in 2001.  Used with permission from the Greene County Archives and Records Center.

Photograph depicting the Green County Bar Association in 1901 that was placed in a time capsule made from a copper box and placed in the cornerstone of the new Green County Courthouse in 1901. The box was was opened in 2001. The photograph is available online through the Ohio Memory digital library. Used with permission from the Greene County Records Center and Archives.


What did the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers choose to put in their time capsule? We do not have a list of its contents. I usually research as much about an object as I can. However, with this time capsule, I will have to wait with everyone else until 2078 to finally find out what is inside!

Have you ever put together a time capsule? What would you include? Have you ever opened one?

Emily Lang, History Curator

References:
Jarvis, William E. Time Capsules: A Cultural History. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2003.

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One Response to Capturing a Moment: The Ohio Society of Professional Engineers Time Capsule

  1. We had an exciting time capsule experience at the Clark County Historical Society a couple of years ago! Springfield’s Memorial Hall was torn down back in September 2010 and we were surprised to receive a phone call on April 1, 2011 from the wrecking company who was cleaning the site. They had accidentally found – and broken open – a 1915 time capsule with their back hoe! Once they realized they had hit something important, they stopped what they were doing and boxed up what they could salvage. We thought they were playing an April Fool’s joke when they called! Aside from the items that were directly damaged from the back hoe, the items in the time capsule were in perfect condition. It was a very exciting day for everyone. We got pictures of what we found that day: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150172849792079.340348.12146842078&type=3.

    Several months later we put together an exhibit with selections from the time capsule contents, a bit about that time period, a history of Memorial Hall, and we talked about the importance of time capsules and how to make your own. Here are pictures from the exhibit: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150396235437079.407301.12146842078&type=3

    It was such a neat experience! More old buildings have come down since then….we’ve made sure to do some digging to find out if they have time capsules!

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