Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, NYC. This is the place where two time capsules—which are not to be opened until the year 6939—reside. In an effort to preserve vignettes of human language (English—specifically), American culture, and modern technology, these two time capsules were constructed to withstand 5 millenia of burial. The first of these massive missile-shaped containers was placed underground by the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company in 1939. With the 20th century being a boon for tech advancement, a second capsule was filled with period-specific items and buried beneath Flushing Meadows Park in 1965. Each capsule is made of composite metals, with air-tight glass envelopes to contain all of the various trinkets and literature pertaining to the times. As of now, they remain buried 50 feet below Flushing Meadows Park and their contents are a bit laughable by today’s standards—but they exemplify what many Americans found important in the thick of an explosive technological era. With commercial production of consumer goods taking ahold of the American conscience, a lot of the “daily life” items found inside—which were fascinating in their day—are now easily acquired globally. This includes electric-powered toys, radios, and (of course) timepieces. Ahead we’ll have a look at the timepieces preserved within these capsules, as well as some of their other fine contents.
The 1939 rendition of the World’s Fair was the largest one in United States history. Its number of patrons exceeded 44million. Considering the amount of travel time it would take many people to reach New York City, this was no small feat. The event itself is where the modern term “time capsule” was coined by one George Edward Pendray—referring to the Westinghouse-designed container. This particular capsule contained a 1939 Montgomery Ward alarm clock and a mechanical women’s wristwatch from the same company. It also stores an electric razor, a package of Camel cigarettes, and other men’s and women’s grooming utilities—including the ever-fascinating and timeless bobby pin. Albert Einstein left a sombre but hopeful message for future generations inside of the capsule, as well. His words—and the words of other great minds—combined with everyday items and entertainment devices make for quite an eclectic vision of the recent past.
Buried just a few years before the first successful trip to the moon, this space-race-infused capsule features some upgraded tech. Its prime horological representative is a Bulova Accutron “Spaceview”. This tuning-fork timekeeper is complemented by other 1960s flair. To briefly describe some of the items featured: A Bikini, detergent, a transistor radio, and of course another pack of Camel cigarettes can all be found buried under Flushing Meadows Park. This far-out tube also features a Beatles LP, birth control, and pieces of rocket ships inside. Evolving cultural shifts will be fun to analyze for any future folks who find this tube alongside its companion. 1960s popular culture, as well as other modern technological advancements, are on full display—and contrast in many ways to the items from just 25 years prior.
Both capsules feature microfilm reels full of literature. As well, there are representations of how the human vocal apparatus functions—to create speech sounds. Literature describing the location of these capsules was sent to over 3,000 locations to help any future living beings geolocate their position. As well, the dates chosen for burying the capsules coincide with significant astronomical cycles. This was done in an effort to make their location easy to determine via the actions of the stars. Being a time-specific endeavor, the capsules do a great job of incorporating both modern and ancient time telling tools in their potential retrieval. With the advent of online archival knowledge, most info can be stored in compressed files and on digital landscapes. However—though time capsules may be going the way of the dinosaur—these buried treasures punctuate significant technologies and social sentiments from times passed. Maybe one day we’ll find a reason to unearth these capsules pre-maturely in an effort to better preserve them. Some speculate that rising sea levels, over time, will obscure the containers to any would-be future archaeologists. For now, there’s still some 4,920 years to go on this time-oriented endeavor. Surely a new type of time capsule will emerge within that window of time—perhaps our favorite items will keep on ticking toward a new technological frontier.
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