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Blast from the past

Tips for creating memories for the future

Tips for creating memories for the future

November 28, 2008|By CHRIS COPLEY

History gets a bum rap. Many people see it as dry, dusty and dead - just a garble of famous names and dates. We're so over it.

Until someone finds an old trunk of Grandma's dresses and cookbooks. Or finds, stashed in a forgotten shoebox, a batch of letters written by Grandpa when he served in North Africa during World War II. Or, stored in a battered suitcase, great-grandpa's pre-Depression fishing tackle.

There's nothing like holding an old family toy or 1890s family scrapbook to bring the past to life.

That's the idea behind time capsules - to carefully set aside and store items that give a picture of who people are in a set time and place.

Holidays, when relatives are getting together, are a good time to assemble a family time capsule. Everyone can participate.

Here's a few guidelines to keep in mind:

o Decide how long you want to wait before opening the time capsule. One year? Five years? Twenty years? Or are you creating this capsule for a future generation to stumble across?

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o Choose a container. A shoebox might be protective enough for a year or two. An airtight, plastic, storage container should protect items for five to 10 years. But if you want to protect a collection of items for decades, you'll need a strong, waterproof, maybe even fireproof container. And how will you remind the recipients that it's time to open 'er up?

o Using a waterproof marker, mark the date on which you created the time capsule and the date on which you intend for it to be opened. Alternatively, you could etch the information onto a metal plate.

o Collect items from everyone in the family, especially younger family members. This makes for a better collection and also increases the chances that someone will remember when it's time to open the capsule.

o When choosing the contents for your capsule, think like an archaeologist. What items would you like to see from your mom or dad's childhood? What items would you like to see from a noteworthy time in history, such as the Swinging '60s or the Great Depression or the Civil War. A newspaper? A personal diary? A child's toy? An example of contemporary technology?

Include a mix of items in your time capsule. Choose items from family highlights such as weddings, holidays or vacations. But also include items from ordinary life, such as a church bulletin, a grocery shopping list, a Christmas card, a favorite CD, a pine cone from the tree in the yard, a matchbook from a favorite restaurant, packaging from a favorite food, a photocopy of a favorite recipe.

o Personal items will make a big difference - handwritten letters, a child's drawing, a Christmas wish list, a printout of an e-mail exchange among family members.

o If you decide to put a CD or cassette in the time capsule, keep in mind that technology changes. A DVD might be fun to share with grandkids in 50 years, but without a DVD player, it's just a pretty silvery disk.

o Select photos of ordinary life - the family house and vehicle - as well as special events. Include photos of as many family members as possible.

o Put items in sealable plastic bags, especially if you include materials that might deteriorate or decay. These materials include wood, water-soluble paint or ink, PVC and food.

o Consider including a list describing all the items in the capsule. Include the name of the person who added it to the capsule.

o Toss in a few little packets of silica gel (often found in bottles of medication) to help control moisture, seal up the container and put it out of sight in a safe place. But make sure everyone is clear about "opening day." The more who know, the better the chances of opening it on time.

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