What is now thought of as a “time capsule” has more recent origins dating to 1937, when preparations for the 1939 New York World's Fair brought about suggestions to bury one for 5,000 years. The 1939 New York World's Fair time capsule was created by Westinghouse as part of its exhibit. It was 90 inches long, with an interior diameter of 6.5 inches, and weighed 800 pounds. Westinghouse named the copper, chromium and silver alloy “Cupaloy,” claiming it had the same strength as mild steel. Everyday items such as a spool of thread and doll, a Book of Record (description of the capsule and its creators), a vial of staple food-crop seeds, a microscope and a 15-minute RKO Pathé Pictures newsreel were included.
This first modern time capsule was followed in 1965 by a second capsule at the same site, but 10 feet north of the original. Both capsules are buried 50 feet below Flushing Meadows Park, the site of the fair. Both the 1939 and 1965 Westinghouse Time Capsules are meant to be opened in 6939.
The Crypt of Civilization at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, sealed in 1940 and scheduled to be opened in 8113, has been called “the first successful attempt to bury a record of this culture for any future inhabitants or visitors to the planet Earth” by the 1990 version of the Guinness Book of World Records.
Currently, four time capsules are “buried” in space. The two Pioneer Plaques—a pair of gold anodized aluminum plaques placed on board the 1972 Pioneer 10 and 1973 Pioneer 11 spacecraft, featuring a pictorial message—and the two Voyager Golden Records, containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, have been attached to spacecraft for the possible benefit of space travelers in the distant future. A fifth time capsule, the KEO satellite, will be launched in 2010 or 2011, carrying individual messages from Earth's inhabitants addressed to earthlings around the year 52,000, when KEO will return to Earth.
For those interested in putting together a personal or family capsule of their own, the Library’s Preservation Directorate has some guidelines. Things to keep in mind when putting one together include the chemical composition of the capsule container and its intended contents, individual packaging of contents, packing organization and protecting the capsule environment.