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“Only when the clock stops does time come to life”*…

 

Inspired by the Egyptian Pyramid and tomb openings in the first half of the 20th century, Thornwell Jacobs, President of Oglethorpe University (near Atlanta) and “the father of the modern time capsule,” was the first in modern times to conceive the idea of purposely preserving man-made objects for posterity by placing them in a sealed repository.  He began work in 1936; then in 1940, he sealed “The Crypt of Civilization,” a 20′ X10′ X 10′ space built into the foundation of one of the buildings on campus.

Set to be opened in 8113, the time capsule contains microfilm on cellulose acetate film capturing more than 800 classic works of literature, including the Bible, the Koran, Homer’s Iliad, and Dante’s Inferno–approximately 640,000 pages in all– and an original copy of the script of Gone With the Wind; modern techonology, including a typewriter, a cash register, an adding machine, an electric toaster, a sewing machine, and a radio receiver; and a host of other “artifacts of the time,” including: seed samples, dental floss, the contents of a woman’s purse, a collection of Artie Shaw records, a pacifier, a specially sealed bottle of Budweiser beer, a set of Lincoln Logs, and plastic toys of Donald Duck, the Lone Ranger, and a Black doll.  The National Bureau of Standards offered professional and technical advice for the artifacts and construction of the crypt, and recommended methods of storage: many artifacts are stored in stainless steel cylinders lined with glass and filled with an inert gas to prevent aging.

Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, president of Oglethorpe University, shown sealing the last cylinder to be placed in the Crypt of Civilization.

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The 1990 Guinness Book of World Records cited the Crypt as the “first successful attempt to bury a record of this culture for any future inhabitants or visitors to the planet Earth.”

Message to the Generations of 8113

This Crypt contains memorials of the civilization which existed in the United States and the world at large during the first half of the twentieth century. In receptacles of stainless steel, in which the air has been replaced by inert gasses, are encyclopedias, histories, scientific works, special editions of newspapers, travelogues, travel talks, cinema reels, models, phonograph records, and similar materials from which an idea of the state and nature of the civilization which existed from 1900 to 1950 can be ascertained. No jewels or precious metals are included.

We depend upon the laws of the county of DeKalb, the State of Georgia, and the government of the United States and their heirs, assigns, and successors, and upon the sense of sportsmanship of posterity for the continued preservation of this vault until the year 8113, at which time we direct that it shall be opened by authorities representing the above governmental agencies and the administration of Oglethorpe University. Until that time we beg of all persons that this door and the contents of the crypt within may remain inviolate.

– A statement from Jacobs, inscribed on a plaque on the door of the Crypt, which is welded shut.

* William Faulkner

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As we try to wait patiently, we might recall that it was on this date in 1792 that a group of 12 Freemasons laid the cornerstone of The White House.  Eight years later, John and Abigail Adams moved in.

The White House was designed by James Hoban, an Irish immigrant architect living in Charleston, South Carolina, who won a competition for the commission (and a $500 prize) with a design modeled after Leinster House in Dublin, Ireland.  He beat out a future resident, Thomas Jefferson, whose Monticello/UVa-like design was among the many losers.

It’s not known whether there was anything contained within the cornerstone.  In fact, thought the building stills stands (albeit rebuilt and expanded after being burned down during the War of 1812), the whereabouts the stone itself are a bit of a mystery.

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