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Time capsules have long served a purpose of collating memories from a specific period of time to be opened by future generations. Often buried in the ground, these vessels of remembrance help to document the narrative of our existence. But is it time we took these tombs out of the soil to protect the planet and save them in the skies instead?

If you were to create a time capsule right now, what would go in it? Perhaps not the same capsule components you might have put in a year ago. A mask? The remnants of an overused sanitiser bottle? Your vaccination card? The ephemera of our livelihoods, particularly of the past year will play an incumbent role in the history books as we narrate this stirring age. But is there still a place for them in the ground?

Credit: Sarandy Westfall

The indefinite influence of the time capsule 

A historic cache of information offering a message to the people of the future, the origins of these earthen vessels remains unclear. As troves of artefacts and goods have long been collected throughout history since the days of the Egyptian tombs, archaeologists are constantly digging up remnants of the past. But the term that we use in common parlance today is reported to date back to the late 1930s when a vessel was prepared for burial at New York’s 1939 World’s Fair.

Despite the elusive beginnings of this activity in preserving vestiges of our present day, the method remains an antiquated one which has continued alongside humans in their evolving existence. As the pathway of time continues to evolve at a greater pace, a catalyst of technological advancement, so too has the role of the time capsule.

Credit: Laura Thonne

From sky to space: the evolution of the vessel 

From the innocent tinned box, hidden in the back of a cupboard to more newfangled editions in polished stainless steel tombs, these crypts of civilization move further with the tone of the times, as entirely virtual entities.Today, iterations of companies continue to expand with the purpose to create a patch on the internet to document the lives and tales of an individual. Except rather than buried in the ground, they’re buried in the ether. While the romanticism of a sentimental burial for your treasured troves still remains, the effects of time intimidate the survival of these memories. Through discoloration and withering in the ground, pioneering digital brands such as Dropbox offer a virtual solution to preserving the souvenirs of yesterday. 

Futureproofing our memories

As we strive to free the planet around us from the plague of pollution we absently imposed on it for so long, how sustainable is putting a plastic container in the soil, threatening the nutrient levels? Not only this, the demand for production of materials to be placed in the ground could be limited by using digital alternatives that require no physical composition. 

Through entirely digital solutions, Dropbox utilises cloud storage to protect files, images and documents to collate for the future. Instead of vessels in the soil, victim to nature’s effects, these precious moments are frozen in time, and can be accessed across multiple generations, particularly in the dawn of a post-pandemic world where the fear of handling objects remains ingrained in our conscience. While museums know the wants of our hands and eyes, and have been restricted to us for so long, we are tasked as storytellers of the present day to inform our successors to recount the narrative of these turbulent times to create our own sermons of the modern day, that will stand the test of time. 

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Scarlett is a writer, editor, and creative consultant specializing in art, fashion, culture and digital strategy. Drawing on her work from previous titles including Dazed, LOVE Magazine, The Perfect Magazine, AnOther and 1 Granary, as the Editor-in-Chief of The Next Hour, Scarlett is leading the editorial vision toward new territories providing an alternative lens of social commentary to recontextualize the world of watchmaking for the next generation.