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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Making a Family Time Capsule

Making a Family Time Capsule

While scrapbooks and photo albums are fine to tell your family story, what about a special project that says even more about your lives together: how you think, what you’ve achieved, what your favorite desserts or movies are, and what your special dreams are for the future—to be opened 10, 20, 30 or more years into that future!

Creating a family time capsule is more like an archive of just who everybody is, where each member gets to include items that mean something personal and significant in defining themselves and the family. A 6th grade report card, copy of a marriage license, birth announcement, 1st anniversary card, a letter where someone was accepted to a chosen university, a hand-knitted baby sweater, photos of a first car or new house, pieces of a favorite childhood board game, school essay about becoming a veterinarian, grandmother’s copper measuring cup – there’s almost no end to what can go into a family time capsule.

Because families today often move a time or two, rather than burying the capsule – which would typically require an airtight, watertight stainless steel or aluminum container and may be left behind – an airtight plastic container available at most office supply, grocery or discount stores may work best to hold and organize these most cherished memories, which can then be placed in an attic or other out-of-the-way place. If you want to take the extra step to protect the capsule in the event of natural and other disasters, acquiring a fireproof container may be well worth your while. Some companies, many of which can be found online, sell actual time capsules, along with insulating and protective bags and envelopes. Your needs, objects, and budget will determine how much you want to invest.

While black-and-white photographs, glass, pottery, notes on acid-free paper (you can purchase paper antacid at many hobby stores to help preserve regular paper), some textiles, wood, well-sealed freeze-dried foods, and nonferrous metals such as gold, copper and brass are reportedly among the most enduring items in a time capsule, it’s important to note that many objects may require their own storage methods—for instance wood gives off gasses so should be sealed, experts say ideally in glass, to prevent damage to electronics that may also inhabit the space. Also, remember to avoid placing anything with a battery in the time capsule, as batteries deteriorate and leak. Among items that do not tend to withstand years in storage are leather (sorry about that old baseball glove) and rubber, the latter of which releases sulfur.

Silica gel packets, which absorb and hold moisture and can be ordered online or found in some stores, will help ensure humidity and other moisture doesn’t rob your time capsule of its irreplaceable objects. Photography and art supply stores generally have excellent ideas about storing related items if they are to be included, and remember that current technology like CD’s and DVD’s may be obsolete in the future when the family time capsule is opened, as audio and videocassettes already are today, so you may want to carefully consider including them.

Finally, making a list on acid-free paper of what’s inside is a good step in helping to preserve your memories, placing it inside the capsule with copies for your own files. Effectively sealing the capsule, depending on what it is made of, may also be something you want to investigate to further protect it from age and elements. You can decide ahead of time exactly when to open the family time capsule and honor that date, or leave the decision open for a particular day in the distant future when you all long for a solid dose of nostalgia—and a reminder of what makes you such a special family.

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.