The Coolest Time Capsules Yet to Be Opened

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Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (L) and conservator Pam Hatchfield look at artefacts removed from a time capsule, which was placed under a cornerstone of the State House in 1795, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, January 6, 2015. Brian Snyder/Reuters

Last week, conservators at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston opened a time capsule sealed by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere back in 1795. The 220-year-old time capsule is the oldest-known in the U.S., according to historians.

The time capsule was initially discovered in December at the Massachusetts State House, where researchers took seven hours to carefully unearth the brass container the size of a cigar box. Removing the screws from the top of the lid took nearly five hours, but it was worth it: Inside lay 23 rare coins, five folded newspapers in “amazingly good condition” and a silver plate commemorating the 20th anniversary of American Independence, in July 1795. The artifacts will eventually return to the State House after being exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts.

This discovery raises the question: What else is out there? The answer is, a lot. It’s unknown how many time capsules are resting in the ground, but whether they’re regional, national or international, time capsules are a part of our culture.

Here’s a roundup of many of the niftiest time capsules that have yet to be unearthed, in order of when they’re scheduled to be opened:

FDR’s Time Capsule 

This time capsule is intriguing in that we have virtually no idea what it contains, save for a speech that former U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote for the capsule's celebration at the University of Pennsylvania. The capsule, buried in the campus quad in 1940, weighs all of 450 pounds -- so what else could be in there? Top-secret military data from World War II? Hundreds of cans of Spam? Until 2040, when it’s supposed to be unveiled, we can only speculate.

The Nickelodeon Time Capsule

Nickelodeon, the cable network for children that brought to our culture such gems as All That and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, buried a time capsule in 1992. It’s filled with goodies that would make any ’90s kid salivate, among them a Nintendo Gameboy, Home Alone on VHS, a box of Twinkies, and a jar of Gak! The network crowdsourced for the time capsule, calling on the “Kids World Council” to decide what should be included in this piece of history. The capsule is buried in front of Nickelodeon Studios at Universal City, California and is due to be opened on April 30, 2042, 50 years after it was laid into the ground.

General Dynamics Time Capsule

In 1963, on the fifth anniversary of the opening of the General Dynamics Astronautics facility in San Diego, researchers created a time capsule intended to be opened 100 years later. The coolest part? A booklet entitled 2063 A.D., in which prominent astronauts, world leaders, researchers, military personnel and others wrote predictions of where space exploration might stand at that point. Were any of them right? Seems like we’ll have to wait and see.

Los Angeles Bicentennial Time Capsule

In 1976, the City of Angels celebrated its bicentennial with a blowout and the burial of a time capsule containing artifacts appropriate to the era: a pet rock, a dress worn by Cher, Los Angeles Lakers veteran Jerry West’s jersey and probably a generous amount of smog. It’s scheduled to be opened on the city’s tricentennial, in 2076.

Martin Luther King Jr. Time Capsule

Underneath the Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. lies a time capsule containing the belongings of the late civil rights pioneer and activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech at the neighboring Willard Hotel. This one will be opened in 2088, a hundred years after it was buried.

National Millennium Time Capsule

What do Ray Charles’s sunglasses, DNA models and a piece of the Berlin Wall have in common? They’ve been deemed by officials as "artifacts, ideas, or accomplishments” that best represent our nation at this point in time, and are thus worthy of being included in the National Millennium Time Capsule. Sealed by the White House in 1999, this one won’t be opened until 2100.

Westinghouse Time Capsules

Two time capsules, one in 1939 and another in 1965, were buried under the site of the New York World’s Fair in Flushing-Meadows Corona Park in New York City’s Queens borough by the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co. Instructions read that the pair be opened simultaneously in 6939 A.D., exactly 5,000 years after the first one was signed and sealed. The 1939 time capsule contains newsreels, seeds, a pack of Camel cigarettes, a Sears Roebuck catalog and a message from Albert Einstein, among others, while the contents of the 1965 time capsule include an electric toothbrush, freeze-dried food, a Beatles album and birth control pills.

Crypt of Civilization

There may not be an Earth as we know it when this time capsule is supposed to be unearthed: 8113. Buried in 1940 at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta by the university’s former president Thornwell Jacobs, it is modeled after a cell that one might find in an Egyptian pyramid. The enormous vault contains items that have been crucial to our civilization thus far: classic works of film and literature, every book of faith, an original script for Gone With the Wind, as well as cultural odds and ends, including a sealed bottle of Budweiser and a typewriter. But what if future civilizations can’t read English? Not to worry: At the front of the crypt lies a “language integrator,” a machine intended to help the aliens who open said crypt with our mother tongue.

George Lucas Time Capsule

The mastermind behind the Star Wars enterprise has buried a time capsule at Skywalker Ranch containing priceless memorabilia and artifacts from the company. But don’t expect to hear about the grand unveiling in your lifetime. Lucas told Wired in an interview that the time capsule will “never” be resurrected because “it's for some archeologist 2,000 years from now to discover. We have an archive….and it is very big. But after a few hundred years it will be gone, so the only thing left is the time capsule.”