Google+ Georgia On My Mind: January 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Time in a Bottle, a Box, an Old Pool, a Crypt.....

I love the scene in the movie National Treasure when the Knights Templar/Freemason treasure is finally located and Ben Gates lights the room up with one flick of his torch. The river of fire glides along throughout the room up and down and all around illuminating the treasure indicating just how many things await discovery. That stream of fire just seems to keep going on forever and ever.

At that point all I can think of is how wonderful it would be to have the task of taking each item bit by bit into the daylight, dusting it off, and identifying where it belongs in our historical story.

I can dream, can’t I? Isn’t that the purpose of going to the movies? To escape into a story and imagine your life intertwined with the story’s events?

Look at the picture below…..

Doesn’t it remind you of the pictures of King Tutankhamen’s tomb prior to it being unpacked by Howard Carter in 1922?

King Tut’s tomb was not packed full of treasure. The purpose behind his tomb was to provide him with items he would need in the afterlife. The people who packed the tomb had no idea we would consider it a treasure.

The picture I’ve shown above does show a treasure of sorts, but it is an intentional treasure… the contents of a time capsule. Items man has set aside for men of the future to examine and analyze, so that there will be few unanswered questions regarding how we lived.

The words “time” and “ capsule” were first used together in 1939 by George Edward Pendray, an American public relations counselor, author, foundation executive, and an early advocate of rockets and spaceflight. He created a “time capsule” as a public relations stunt for Westinghouse at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and the practice of setting aside certain items for folks in a future time to stuck in the American psyche.

The picture posted above shows the contents of a time capsule that was officially sealed in 1940 and is located in Atlanta, Georgia on the campus of Oglethorpe University.

The Oglethorpe capsule is known as The Crypt of Civilization. Pendray received his inspiration for the New York World’s Fair capsule after reading about the plans for the Crypt of Civilization.

Ever hear of Thornwell Jacobs? I doubt it. He was an educator, author, and a Presbyterian minister. He was also the president of Atlanta’s Oglethorpe University for 30 years beginning in 1915.

He also implemented the Crypt of Civilization. A Scientific American article from 1936 discusses Jacob’s ideas. Jacobs wrote of a unique plan to present a “running story” of life and customs. He wanted to show the accumulated knowledge of mankind up until his time.

Here is a Popular Mechanics article also discussing Jacob's ideas.

The 1990 Guinness Book of Records calls the Crypt of Civilization the first successful implementation of the modern time capsule.

The Crypt page at the Oglethorpe University webpage can be found here.

The contents of the crypt include items donated from King Gustav V of Sweden, classical works such as the Bible, the Koran, and Dante’s Inferno. An original script for Gone With the Wind along with recordings of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Roosevelt. Sound clips from Popeye the Sailor and a champion hog caller were included.

Everyday items like dental floss, the contents of a woman’s purse, a pacifier, and a set of Lincoln Log are included. Microreaders and projectors are included so that the films and recordings can be accessed along with a windmill operated generator since current forms of electricity might not be in use in 8113 AD.

A very detailed list can be found here.

It is scheduled to be opened in 8113 A.D. Yes, I know. The proposed opening date brings several questions to mind such as will the Crypt be forgotten? Will it be lost to time? Will it matter to folks living in Georgia and the world in 8113 A.D?

Apparently the folks at the History Channel had the same questions making the Crypt of Civilization a focal point of their series…….Life After People.

Here is the first section of the series where it mentions the Cyrpt:

It is mentioned again at the end of Part 4 found here.

The International Time Capsule Society is also at Oglethorpe University. Their mission is to promote the study of time capsules. Their mission states: To maintain a registry of timed events of all known time capsules, to establish a clearing house for information about time capsules, to encourage study of history, variety and motivation behind time capsule projects, amd to educate the general public and the academic commumity concerning the value of time capsules.

This article from the New Georgia Encyclopedia details other time capsules around the state.

The city of Douglasville has a time capsule buried on the “old” courthouse grounds.   The capsule will be opened in 2070, but you can find out what’s in it at this link.
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