A Father's Time Capsule to his Daughter
July 13, 2007 9:49 PM   Subscribe

What should I put in a time capsule for my daughter?

I'm increasingly obsessed with how time keeps moving faster as I get older, and with my daughter's 2nd birthday approaching at the end of this year, I thought it would be fun to bury a time capsule in our yard for her, to open in 2026, on her 21st birthday. I have all of the sentimental items, (for example, a letter I wrote her when I found out my wife was pregnant), but I really want her to get a feel not just for who her parents were when they were (semi)young & (semi)cool, but what life was like in America when she was too little to take notice of it. For reference, similar items the from same time in my own childhood would have included, for example, the original Washington Post Watergate scandal reporting or an 8 track tape of Led Zep IV. So what things should I consider that will help commemorate the times?
posted by jonson to Society & Culture (26 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
How about a hand-sewn Raggedy-Ann?
posted by WaterSprite at 10:00 PM on July 13, 2007

Put a bunch of old coins (in a sealed bag to keep them somewhat preserved) in as well...you never know how much they might be worth in 2026.
posted by thelloydshow at 10:02 PM on July 13, 2007

Some newspapers with major current events stories. A popular book (the new Harry Potter perhaps? A mint hardbound 1st printing may be worth a little bit in 20 years, but probably not). Maybe some cheesy magazines like People or Cosmo or US Weekly (capture the pop culture moment). Maybe the Billboard Top 40 list from the day she was born (if you want to be really cool, get all the songs off of iTunes and burn them onto a CD for her). Some movie ticket stubs. Burn a DVD of some of your favorite TV Shows. Print out your favorite MeFi thread. Write a letter about what you see as the biggest problems in the world, and one about the things you are most hopeful about in the future. A framed picture of the 3 of you together. A "What's hot/what's not" list from a prominent fashion or culture publication. Some popular women's fashion items. Some footage of Bush, Cheney, or other prominent politicians.
posted by papakwanz at 10:24 PM on July 13, 2007

I'd fill the entire capsule with spring-loaded snakes. Just imagine the anticipation you'd build for the next twenty years, all for one perfect knee-slapping moment.
posted by Stan Chin at 10:40 PM on July 13, 2007 [10 favorites]

Maybe the Billboard Top 40 list from the day she was born (if you want to be really cool, get all the songs off of iTunes and burn them onto a CD for her).

Seconding this. Music is a great way to create a "time stamp" for people of the future.
posted by amyms at 10:54 PM on July 13, 2007

Try and make a video of you and your wife's daily routine with your daughter, the interior of the house, any common activities out and about (trip to the market, seeing everyone's 2007 fashions etc). That will give her a taste of ordinary life now, and allow her to see how you both interacted with her then too. Burn it to a CD (with a video player and appropriate codecs!). Oh, and write down your internet connection spsed, so she can boggle at how slow it was back in the old days ;)

Awesome idea by the way, I have a 7 week old and I should do this for him too. Looking forward to reading through all the ideas :)
posted by Joh at 11:22 PM on July 13, 2007

err, speed not spsed.
posted by Joh at 11:23 PM on July 13, 2007

A newspaper. They might not be around in 19 years.
posted by happyturtle at 11:48 PM on July 13, 2007

Some items to bury:

Newspaper from the date she was born.

Music from the top 100 chart from the month of her birth (and maybe something to play the media).

Maybe one of mom's pieces of jewelery.

A picture, printed on the day you bury the time capsule. Are you planning on having her help? Maybe you can take some pictures of her helping you fill it and then throw them in at the last minute.

A withdraw slip (or something) to a savings account that you set up but never tell her about. Make a large contribution to it now, or put money in it over the next 19 years. Either way, it will be a great gift for her when she is 21 and on her own.

I know she is a girl and all, but I think it would be really cool to open it and find something like a PSP, or an iPod, or some type of electronic device that will be usable, but obsolete due to technical advances.

I just want to say that this is a great idea and I may just have to do something like this for my daughter. Sounds like something they will really appreciate when they are grown.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 12:38 AM on July 14, 2007

A good bottle of whisky or wine. One of my friends received a bottle of whisky from the day he was born when he turned 18 from his parents, which he really appreciated.
posted by adrianhon at 2:53 AM on July 14, 2007

I totally second the TV shows. Looking back on the TV I used to watch is one of the most nostalgic things about my childhood.

Photos or video of her room, the house, the neighborhood, the grocery store or any other frequently-visited places are definitely fun to watch as well.
posted by sian at 5:18 AM on July 14, 2007

This sounds like a great idea, with some awesome suggestions so far.

Get some finger paint and make her hand and foot imprints on paper and add those. Or if you want to get more creative, take her hand/foot imprints in plaster.

Coins from today, a newspaper, perhaps a magazine like Cosmo or something that shows what girls who are 21 today talk about. A fashion magazine of some sort so she can laugh at the crazy things people wore. A printed web story about the iPhone hype.

One of the coolest things my parents saved for my brother and I were the kids books they read for us over and over. When we outgrew the books, they put them away in the attic instead of giving them away. My brother and I had a total nostalgia trip when we discovered them as we were moving from the house when I was 19. Same with some of the clothes that we wore in formal pictures. They also kept a lot of the "art" that we made, which was funny too.

Final thought. If you are going to bury the letter you wrote when you found out your wife was pregnant, keep the original and bury a copy instead. I would hate to think that you would lose it if - by chance- your time capsule doesn't hold up as well as you would like.
posted by gemmy at 6:27 AM on July 14, 2007

If you own or can borrow a video camera, how about filming the neighborhood, the house, the streets, etc. This is bound to undergo huge change in twenty years. burn it on various formats to maximize the chance of being able to read it in twenty years (twenty years ago, the thing would have been on a VHS tape)
posted by Baud at 6:45 AM on July 14, 2007

There's some great advice in Saving Stuff from a senior conservator at the Smithsonian on making sure that your time capsule actually lasts for as long as you intend it to.

For example: keeping it in a closet or attic instead of underground to minimize the risk of water, soil, mold, and plant damage; methods of determining how air/water-tight the container is; using oxygen scavengers inside the container to reduce damage; choosing stored objects of materials that won't interact detrimentally with each other (I especially like the suggestion for infants of including a lock of hair from each member of the family, since childrens's may change with age and parents may grey); photocopying newspapers and other items on unstable media onto rag/acid-free paper so that they have half a chance of surviving ten years, etc.
posted by nonane at 7:13 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

A detailed family tree/geneology with well labeled photos (all on paper, of course). Video and audio would be awesome too.

Yeah, I like the daily routine video too. Perhaps backed up with a paper mini-diary capturing a couple weeks worth of life.
posted by Mercaptan at 7:48 AM on July 14, 2007

along the lines of putting current news stories- about a week ago Newsweek had a special (i think double issue) where the feature was basically things you should know about the world at this point in time, that might be nice to include.

Additionally, I'd just suggest putting something of yourselves in there. What CDs are you and your wife listening to right now? DVDs? etc. What would you have been interested to know about your parents when you turned 21?
posted by nuclear_soup at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2007

The PSP/iPod thing is a neat idea, but it would probably be worthwhile to find something that runs on regular old double-A's, because the chances of being able to find a proprietary battery for a twenty-year-old tech device are probably pretty slim.

Also, let me nth the suggestion of a newspaper--ideally, I think, a whole Sunday newspaper--between the front page stories, advertisements, op-eds, comics, local content and everything else, you'd get quite the picture of the time and place.
posted by box at 10:42 AM on July 14, 2007

How about an outfit or a piece of clothing that is very fashionable now. It will be hard to guess her size, but perhaps a a t-shirt/sweat-shirt or a pair of those hideous flip flop shoes the young-ins like.

Please consider someplace above ground. I rental locker? Safety deposit box?
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 12:26 PM on July 14, 2007

Best answer: A vintage purse or handbag from 2007 might be really cool for a girl in 2026. This goes for any articles of clothing. You might want to vacuum seal any clothing items.

A few packs of hockey/baseball/cartoon cards are always fun.

Some photos taken (and printed) today that won't be seen for another 19 years, maybe with a lock of hair if you think you are going bald.

Whatever toy is her favourite right now, go out and buy a second one, that way when she has kids 20 years down the road she'll be able to give them the same toy she had (goes for books or other things too).

A not too cheap bobble such as a glass vase or what not could be interesting.

A map of the world circa 2007, I don't know about you but I always get a kick of my 1988 National Geographic map with its two Germanies, giant USSR and wierd places such as Yugoslavia. Who knows what Iraq will be called 19 years down the road?

Screw the CDs, DVDs, sketchy media... maybe album covers would be more appropriate.

Postcards from your city/state are fun, my wife got a Toronto postcard that dates from 1980 recently, what a hoot! On a similar tip, I found a bunch of 1910 valentine's day cards for $0.50 each and have been sending them each year to my wife, maybe you can think of something similar.

Any current sports memorabilia... a pennant from the 2007 world series or a current sports team baseball cap.

Something that won't age well, such as the Atkins Diet book or a book proposing Biodiesel as a solution to all our problems.

Zany key chains.

Zany earrings.

Some stickers.
posted by furtive at 1:41 PM on July 14, 2007

Photos and measurements of all the trees in your neighborhood, photos of the neighborhood in detail. Photos of the downtown area in detail. Current bus pass, bus token, subway token, etc. Local band posters/flyers. Ooh, this weekend's shopping circular!
posted by furtive at 1:45 PM on July 14, 2007

I don't have anything against the newspapers suggestion (well I guess I do, it's way schoolteacher "fun"), but if you want my advice you'll figure out a way to put Lazy Sunday in the capsule.

It is, by far, the best archive of everything that regular people cared about in 2006.
posted by Stan Chin at 1:54 PM on July 14, 2007

What about a tshirt or sticker or pin or whatevr for one of the minor political candidats ... perhaps one each of Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama, or one of the other guys?
posted by furtive at 2:58 PM on July 14, 2007

I beg to differ, but I suggest not including a newspaper or things that she'll be able to find on her own later...instead consider very personal stuff. Tuck in a few shopping lists, an account of a typical day from Mom and Dad, and some personal stuff ( jobs they held, life highlights, hobbies) from/about grandparents...they will have changed the most (or may be gone) when she turns 21. I kept copies of letters/emails to friends that covered our day to day lives...those are great to read now. I'd add her favorite toy or a picture of her with it. Anything you can find about her, she's young for report cards, but anything like that where she is mentioned is great. And maybe a wish list...ask all her important grownups what they wish for her, what they think the future holds, what she's doing now that makes them think her future career might be.
21 years isn't that far away. Enjoy this time...and take tons of pictures, you'll be glad later.
posted by what-i-found at 3:19 PM on July 14, 2007

Letters from her grandparents perhaps?
posted by fallenposters at 5:31 PM on July 14, 2007

Export your email and archive that.
posted by matholio at 6:45 AM on June 23, 2008

I agree, it's the mundane stuff which will be most personal describe 'life'.
News media, et al, is processed, refined and manipulated. It won't teach her about her young father.
posted by matholio at 6:48 AM on June 23, 2008

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