What were Paul Revere and Sam Adams thinking 220 years ago when they packed a time capsule that would sit beneath the new Massachusetts State House?
What clues about their state of mind should we take away from the newspapers, coins and other trinkets they placed in the little box?
In 1795, the U.S. was still a teenager struggling on many fronts. It would be nice to think Revere, Adams and William Scollay, a colonel in the Revolutionary War, made choices they felt represented hope, confidence and solidarity.
Peer 220 years into the future. What would we want the people of 2234 to know about us? What should they know?
What would we put in a time capsule today?
I posed the question to my Facebook community and got answers ranging from smart phones and tablets to running shoes and carbon fiber bikes. One person asked that we exclude any photos of Kim Kardashian. Another wanted to insert a necktie, plus his wish that they be banned in the future. Several wanted current newspapers, literature and movies. One suggested “all of Breaking Bad.”
And one more other offered suggestions based on categories from Trivial Pursuit. As in: “Geography: a car GPS; Entertainment: an iPod; History: the New York Times on 9/11; Arts and Literature: a Kindle; Science and Nature: a microprocessor; Sports and Leisure: Sports Illustrated with the 1980 U.S. Olympic team beating the Soviet Union on the cover.”
I also got: yoga pants, Red Bull, a Starbucks cup, a video game console, a graphing calculator, skinny jeans, and news articles about the day’s top stories.
Great ideas and all signs of our time, but the portrait is incomplete.
The day after the Boston time capsule was unveiled, shocking news arrived from Paris about the massacre at a French satirical newspaper office. Given the prevalence of violence in so many other nations as well, the 2015 time capsule must also include a bullet and a journalist’s notebook.
What else? Perhaps:
- A protective mask worn by healthcare workers who treat Ebola patients
- A hands-up, don’t shoot poster and a police officer’s badge
- A beaker of water that was once ice on a glacier
- A list of salaries for teachers, pro athletes and CEOs
- A drone, or at least its joystick
- A map of the world that shows how many live in severe poverty
- A faulty ignition switch
- A chart that shows where we still must deliver Internet access
- A poll on Congress’ latest approval rating, plus one for the president
- A 2015 global economic forecast
- A diagram of the Keystone XL oil pipeline
- A real interview with Bill Cosby
- A wedding license that unites a gay couple
- A NASA photo from deep space
All of this will require a capsule larger than the one they dug up from Boston Commons. That’s okay. The world’s bigger and more complicated than in Paul Revere’s day. In fact, there’s more room in our capsule. Can you think of anything we’ve left out? Maybe a note trying to make sense of it all …
Link: Boston Globe account (including video) of time capsule opening:
Read more posts by Steve Piacente, a former print journalist and correspondent.
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