How to Create a Time Capsule

Two Methods:Sample Time Capsule LettersCreating Your Own Time Capsule

A time capsule can be as simple as a shoe box full of items reserved (or even forgotten) somewhere. Other time capsules may need to last a very long time, in which case a strong stainless steel container is recommended, with a proper seal. Keep in mind that creating a capsule for unveiling at some future date is really a two sided adventure involving both you and those who will uncover it once again. Make sure that the items you select will add the element of surprise and discovery for those who open this curious treasure chest of history. Scroll past the jump to learn how to make a time capsule that will be sure to please and surprise whoever opens it.

Sample Time Capsule Letters

Sample Letter to Future Self

Sample Time Capsule Letter to Stranger

Sample Time Capsule Letter to Family

Creating Your Own Time Capsule

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    Choose a duration for your time capsule. One way to do this is to consider who you would like your audience to be. Would you like to open the time capsule yourself? Would you like to share it with your own children or grandchildren? Would you like your message to last long into the future?
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    Decide where you will store your time capsule. Burial may not be the best choice, for several reasons. It is very likely to be forgotten or lost, and it is much more susceptible to damage from moisture.
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    Select a container. How much stuff do you want to preserve for the future? Think about how long this collection must last and where it will go. If you will store it inside, at home, a shoebox, bin, or old suitcase might be quite adequate. If you plan to place the time capsule outdoors or bury the time capsule, you will have to choose a container that is highly weatherproof. Consider using desiccant "gel bags" such as those included in the packaging of electronic goods and in bottles of vitamin C tablets. These help to absorb any moisture that may have been present at the time of encapsulation or that may ingress in the future. They are also "oxygen-scavengers" that help to kill microbes that may make some of your items perish.
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    Consider an above ground option. One interesting alternative is to store your time capsule items in a stainless steel vacuum food jar (you could even try Space-bags) and then hide this inside a camouflaged polyurethane hollow rock or log. These above ground time capsules are called Geocapsules and can provide a further level of adventure to the time capsule experience.
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    Collect the objects to go in your time capsule. Who will open your time capsule, and what would you like to tell them? Have fun with this step! Objects for time capsules need not be of high monetary value. Rather, choose things that reflect the spirit of the present. What is unique about today? Anything that captures the spirit of the present is a candidate, but you might want to consider things like these:
    • Popular toys or tools.
    • Labels or packaging of favorite foods or other products. Include price tags, if you can.
    • Newspapers or magazines showing current events or current trends.
    • Photographs.
    • Filled Journals.
    • Letters
    • Currency
    • Favorite things.
    • Clothes and fashion items of the current time
    • Personal messages to and from others
    • Indicators of high technology. Even if nobody can read the contents of a DVD in 50 or 100 years, you might still enclose one to demonstrate the state of the art.
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    If you wish, write and enclose your own description of what it is like to live right now. Tell your future audience about daily life. Talk about ordinary day-to-day activities; current fads, fashions, attitudes, and trends; how much everyday objects usually cost; and anything else that you would like to say.
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    Do something to remind yourself or others of the location of the time capsule and the date you intend it to be opened. If you keep a calendar, write at the end of it each year when your time capsule should be opened. Place a plaque or marker if you have hidden or buried the time capsule, indicating where it can be found. Record the date and whereabouts in a journal or scrapbook. If the time capsule is for personal use, choose an opening date with personal significance, such as your birthday, a child's birthday, or a major holiday in the chosen year. Or, record its whereabouts in your will, along with any special instructions. According to the International Time Capsule Society, most time capsules are "lost due to thievery, secrecy or poor planning". If your time capsule is intended for retrieval years or decades after its original placement, make doubly sure that several people know of its exact location and surroundings. If placed outside, above or underground, take photographs of your placement, identify GPS coordinates, and write down all data important for re-locating the precise location. Send multiple copies of the location data to those you can trust and ask them to hold the information for safekeeping. You can even schedule a future email to be sent to you as a retrieval reminder.
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    Seal the time capsule to your satisfaction and store it for the selected amount of time. Remember that a personal time capsule does not need to be of great duration or durability. Even five years from now, the world will have changed and the artifacts of today will stir memories.


  • Mark the time capsule with the date you intend for it to be opened.
  • Include objects that have significance to you or your community. Reflect the tastes, industry, or favorite pastimes of your family and/or your community.
  • If possible, use acid-free paper if you choose to include papers, books, or writing.
  • Use an old shoebox if you keep a messy room/closet. After you fill it, put it in a corner and forget about it for a few years. It will be interesting to see how much you've changed (if at all) over the years.
  • Go looking for time capsules you may already have. Has Grandma forgotten a suitcase, trunk, or journal in her attic? Does your local library have old magazines, maps, or books you could explore?
  • Register the time capsule if you want to make it more official.
  • It's okay to not have a specific date for the capsule to be opened. Maybe you want to open it when you are married!
  • Remember to mark the current date on the time capsule.


  • Always treat antiques, historical artifacts, and other records of the past with care and respect so that their messages can reach future generations, too.
  • Don't put perishable items in your time capsule. Nobody wants a 40-year-old peanut butter sandwich!
  • Consider the life span of other objects, too. A plastic toy might weather the years better than a book or magazine, especially if the time capsule is ever exposed to water.

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