Making a Family Time Capsule

Susan Sanders-Kinzel
April 1, 1999

An inexpensive and fun family project for this year is building a Family Time Capsule. This capsule can include any items you like. The purpose is to let your future family members know about you, your times and their family history.


Because this is the turn of the Millennium*, there are many things going on that in 100 years will be interesting, amusing and fun for our family members to come.

Ideas of things to include:

It is still fairly easy to find things back to the turn of the century. Talk to the elder members of your families to find out what was important when they were children and what they remember of their parents and grandparents.

Every era has it's important times and historical events but this time capsule is for YOUR family, so how those events affected your family personally. For example, WWI, WWII, The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, Korean Conflict, Viet Nam, immigration to this country.

If you really don't know anything about your family history or were adopted, use your best judgment as to what you would want the family members to come to know about your family however it is structured. One of the trends of our times are families with step siblings, half siblings and foster or adopted siblings. Whatever is unique about your family will be interesting to those that will come.

Collect this information throughout the year and put it in a keepsake box or fireproof box. Make sure it is small enough that it can easily be passed on and strong enough that it can last 100 years. Put instructions on it what date it should be opened on and the family names attached to it. (All families include lots of names, maternal, paternal and adoptive, none of us know which names will be important in years to come.)

On next New Year's Eve, have a little ceremony sealing the box.

Have fun with it and let us know any ideas you have for making your Time Capsule. We'd be interested in any items to include, what kind of box or container to use. We'll include a compilation of these ideas in future issues.

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Here is my "fun project" for the entire family. I find this to be great fun, we have done this 3 or 4 times. If I am doing any sort of remodeling where we have to open a wall, I always put a "time capsule" in the wall before closing it up again.

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March 18, 2005

Here's a great project for children just learning to write. Make a Time Capsule. Have the child write their name or ABCs on a piece of paper and date it. Roll the paper and place in a paper towel tube. You can decorate the tube with paints, markers or fabric. Tape the ends closed and use a pen to mark a date to be opened. The start of the school year is a good time to do this project and have the kids open it on the last day of school. They'll be able to see how much their handwriting has improved and will have a real sense of pride and accomplishment at their progress. By Cheryl from Missouri

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

What would be a good thing to put in a time capsule for a little girl's first birthday?

By Jean Rounsville from Banning, CA


November 29, 20100 found this helpful

A lock of hair
Picture of her with parents/grandparents and other relatives
A letter about how much she means to you and
tell about what she's done or places you've taken her to. Anything about her that made you laugh hard. Even the worse temper tantrum she pulled is funny or what it was over. Children love to hear about what they were like as a baby. Was she a good baby; slept well through the night; cried a lot; a sweet disposition, ate well, favorite bathtub toy; did she like dolls or stuffed animals; Each relative could add something about her from their own view point, so one day she will read about herself through the eyes of those closest to her.

Do you have a piece of clothing like a bootie or shoe she wore as an infant? It could become a keepsake or her baby spoon or a clean empty baby food jar she ate favorite food from leaving the label on the jar. (I gave two baby food jars I saved to my g.daughter when she was old enough to play with her dolls and not break the glass jar and she pretended to feed her dolls; the baby spoon was also hers) She enjoyed having those items so much.

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December 1, 20100 found this helpful

Lorelei has some great ideas. I was also thinking a newspaper either from the day she was born (you can get one from your local newspaper office's "morgue," or archive.) Another idea is to go to the website "info please" (find it by typing the phrase into your fave search engine,) and find your daughter's birth year. Print the whole page.
One more thing: if your daughter's fave toy isn't trashed or too tattered - and maybe even if it is - include that.

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December 1, 20100 found this helpful

Don't forget to put the candle from the first birthday cake in there along with a photo of her blowing the candle out and/or her eating the cake. :-) And I know it sounds weird but when she's old enough to open the time capsule she might get a real kick out of a diaper (not soiled of course - LOL) being in there. ;-)

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December 1, 20100 found this helpful

You may want to put in a favorite dress or other clothing that she liked to wear, a favorite toy, picture of a place where she felt peaceful, a picture of her with her favorite stuffy, a picture of any pets you have, pictures of her room. Hope this helps.

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December 2, 20100 found this helpful

If you have access to a video camera make a video of her and her family and relatives. It's nicer to see a video of family and relatives so she can see people she may resemble.

Pictures of her parents at her birth, and a picture of her every year she grows.

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How can I make a time capsule that will withstand underground elements for about 15 years?

By Barbara Keene from Mashpee, MA


May 21, 20100 found this helpful

I think a metal tool box inside a large plastic leaf bag should do it. We're always hearing about how long it takes plastic to break down.

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December 7, 20140 found this helpful

A good container for a time capsule would be a five-gallon heavy duty plastic bucket with a handle and a lid. New, empty, clean ones are available at warehouse stores such as Smart and Final. Some businesses buy these types of buckets with lard, laundry detergent, or other bulk material in them, and once they have used the contents, they throw the buckets and lids away, so you might try asking around to find if any local businesses such as restaurants have empty ones they might give away to you for free.

However, if a bucket contained pickles or other ingredients with a strong odor, it may be impossible to remove the odor completely, and it will taint anything you put into the bucket, and off course, you would not want to re-use a bucket that once contained a possibly hazardous substance such as a degreasing agent used by an auto repair shop.

Be sure everything you place inside the time capsule container is absolutely dry, because even a miniscule amount of moisture would migrate around inside it and damage or destroy all of the contents; a desiccant (a material that absorbs water) would be a good thing to include inside a time capsule.

Although you might be tempted to include canned food or a bottle of wine or something else containing liquid, keep in mind that if the contents of a can rusts through or the cork or cap of a bottle fails with the passage of time, the entire contents of the time capsule will be destroyed. Do not place any batteries or devices with batteries in them inside the time capsule; batteries can leak as they age, and the acid in them is very corrosive to metals and will damage other materials.

If you want to include information for posterity, remember that what you record it on could be obsolete by the time the capsule is opened - just think of floppy disks, 8-track tape cassettes, VHS tapes, and so forth - almost no one one now has machines that can read or display what is recorded on them. Your best bet might be to go with good old fashioned ink on paper and photographs printed on photo-quality paper.

You can purchase inexpensive books with blank pages and lined notebooks such as Composition Notebooks. You could take a notebook and go around asking people a question, such as, "What is the purpose of life?" or "What is your typical day like?" or "What is important to you?" or something else, and writing their answers, their names, age or date of birth, and the date you asked the question, in the book, and include this in your time capsule for people to read in the future. A pair of men's shoes and a pair of women's shoes and some other articles of clothing would be great to include.

Include information from your interests and the interests of other people; for example, if you like to cook, write down a few of your favorite recipes to include; if you like to make things by hand such as crafts or jewelry or fishing lures, include a few examples of your best work. Photographs are very important because people and places and things change dramatically over time; take photographs of your home, the street you live on, the main streets and attractions of your community, parks, schools you attended and places where you worked, your church or temple or synagogue, your pets, your vehicle, individuals and groups of people, and people doing things such as playing or picnicking or working.

Each photograph should have complete information about it: date taken, names of people in it, location, and anything else that might be important to people seeing it in the future. Place the lid on the container, and use a rubber mallet or something similar to completely tamp down the lid onto the container for a good, tight seal.

A time capsule can be buried in the ground (preferably 'high ground' that does not flood or get completely saturated with water), but one could also be placed inside the wall of a building, inside the base of a statue, inside a stone or brick or concrete wall outside, under pavement such as a driveway or sidewalk, or even in an attic, crawl space, in the space under the stairs, or in a seldom-accessed storage area. Now here's something to think about: Suppose you place a time capsule somewhere, and everyone who knows about it dies or moves away or forgets about it - how are you going to make a record of its location so that someone, perhaps someone who will never know or meet you, can know of its existence?

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