Creating a family time capsule

The holiday season is a great time to create a family time capsule for future generations to enjoy.

A meaningful and inexpensive family project is a time capsule. Holiday gatherings are a great opportunity to get started since many relatives are often in attendance. One or two family members (don’t rule out older youth) need to take the lead in explaining the project and giving guidelines and suggestions as to what can be included in the time capsule. Creating a printed handout would be helpful for future reference as items are collected, especially when it comes to the number and size of items. A resource you may want to read before getting started is The Legacy Project. This site offers ideas and printable forms such as; a family tree and life interview questions for family members to answer and include in your time capsule. You’ll find these under the topic: Across Generations. The American Library Association also provides helpful information regarding a family time capsule. 

Decisions to make: 

  • Decide on the size of a container. It needs to be sturdy and waterproof. Families have used a 5-gallon plastic pail with a cover, others have used a metal toolbox. Where will the container be kept? Keep in mind that several family members need to know how to access the time capsule. 
  • Come up with a date for the capsule to be opened and updated.  
  • Collect items. Include photos of each family member, mementos of family events, family recipes, school artwork, greeting cards, letters, clothing, family stories and favorite music. You can also add articles from magazines and newspapers to get a feel for what was going on at the time. Be aware that newspapers can be highly acidic and could harm other items in the time capsule. You may want to make photocopies of newspaper information. Include a list of popular movies, celebrities and expressions.  

To keep in mind:

  • Make a list of all the contents and attach the list to the outside of the container.
  • Don’t use paper clips or staples because they can rust and leave marks on your items.
  • Label everything. Remember those unlabeled leftovers in the freezer you opened and did not recognize? Label everything!

A family time capsule is a wonderful way to celebrate your extended family and find connections that were unknown before the project. This can bring us closer together.   

Michigan State University Extension also offers information related to time capsules. This resource is titled, Family Folklore and is complete with activity sheets. 

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