by Harry Flashman
Time for a time capsule?
Niagara Falls 1911.
Bangkok Floods 1950.
Bangkok Floods 2011.
According to the Associated Press, a time capsule was opened this month in
Boston in the US. “A Boston time capsule dating to 1901 contained letters,
photographs, newspaper clippings, political campaign buttons and a
presidential message on U.S. foreign relations; archivists said Wednesday.
The shoebox-sized capsule was removed last week from the head of a lion
statue that has long stood guard over the Old State House.”
Now, there are many time capsules buried all over the world, all with the
intention that ‘sometime’ in the future, they will be dug up and our
descendants will avidly study the contents, saying “Look at what they wore
in 2014!” and similar. Things will be very different in 2114. (For starters,
none of us reading this will still be around. In fact, will the world as we
knew it still be around?)
However, returning to time capsules, take a look at the photograph, taken in
1911, of the Niagara Falls. Global warming was obviously not a problem, it
was rather global freezing. That photograph would have been very suitable
for a time capsule, as they portray a condition of the world that has
certainly changed since 1911. Photographically, it is also very good. Note
the inclusion of the figures which give an indication of the size of the
falls. I have mentioned this before, but when taking photographs of
“things”, if you can incorporate a person in the photograph, you have
immediately given a sense of scale to the “thing”.
Now some of you will be thinking, “Where do I get a waterfall that has
frozen over in Thailand?” The simple answer is that you won’t, but there are
many situations in Thailand that are likely to change by the time someone
opens your time capsule in 2114.
If you think back at how your city or village looks today, compared to how
it was 5, 10 or even 20 years ago, you will find there have been great
differences. I remember that 30 years ago Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok was two
bitumen lanes with dirt shoulders each side in the Soi 11 Ambassador Hotel
area. The Ambassador itself was about three storeys high, and nothing like
it is today. Now imagine what your village is going to be like in 30 years
from now. “Ordinary” photographs of your local area will be a wonderful
reference in another 30 years. And in 100 years will become exhibits in the
You could put in your time capsule some shots of the Bangkok floods - then
(1950) and now (2011). In your capsule you are giving the future generations
an idea of the conditions 100 and 150 years ago. Now that’s a bonus for
There are countless subjects that you can put in your personal time capsule,
and obviously technology changes so fast that photographs of techo items
should be included. Think back to the airplanes of Louis Bleriot or before
that, the Wright brothers. Today’s aircraft are the Sopwith Camels of
tomorrow. Wireless internet, iPods, Bluetooth, Blackberry, LCD screens - all
the cutting edge of today will be the blunted edge in 100 years.
Now one important decision you have to make, is the format for your
photographs. Sure you can burn them onto DVDs, but will there be something
you can play a DVD on in 100 years? Remember the eight track stereos, or the
five and a half inch floppy disks or even Beta-Cam? Try playing one of those
even today. Your DVD might be the same in 100 years. How do you download the
In my time capsule I will put prints, done in archival quality, and at least
I know that my great grandchildren will be able to view the scenes and items
and people of 100 years prior. Sometimes simplest is best.
I do encourage you to exercise your brains and think about what might be
interesting in 100 years. And photograph it today.
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