Thursday, 2 May 2013
Time, Travel and Time Capsules: Keep, delete, or bury?
After my recent post linking to the beautiful 100 year old time capsule, my own mum got in touch to tell me that she's been inspired to bury a time capsule. She asked me for suggestions of what to put in it, and even asked me to put out requests over social media for suggestions.
So I did.
And the responses were fascinating.
What started as a list of items such as "photos of the local area" and "pictures of family" became a short debate over what format should go in a time capsule. Some people said only include hard copies of photographs and paper materials, others suggested hard drives, old laptops, video footage, etc.
Which is going to last longer and be most relevant in 100 years?
It reminded me of when I was packing to move to the USA for good. I sorted through all the stuff that I'd accumulated and the memories that it held, knowing I only had limited shipping space. I ended up packing an old VHS of a Snoopy movie, even though VHS is obsolete, I'm not sure the video still works, and it definitely doesn't work in the USA anyway. I just couldn't part with it.
We humans are funny and emotional like that. We like to hoard things that we think represent ourselves. And we do it online too. How many pins do you have on Pinterest for example? Or how many photos on Facebook? How many of your blog posts are going to matter to you in 50 years?
Some people think that we should regularly delete elements of our past, and that the internet is detrimental to our need to forget. I'm not sure I agree.
First of all, I think it's important to keep mementos of our past and present. When I worked on a project helping baby boomers set up healthy aging initiatives, so many of them were concerned with memories and reminiscence. Our memories are important, and they keep our brain healthy. Cool apps like the Museum of Me (which creates a visual museum from your Facebook page) could be really useful to help us look back, but could even help to delay forgetfulness in old age.
Secondly, digital is not quite as permanent as we think. Sure, the Way Back When machine is archiving the internet, and the Library of Congress is archiving Twitter, but formats get corrupted or deleted, and new technologies come along. Old film prints are slowly deteriorating and without funding to transfer them to new formats, we're slowly losing bits of history.
So when it comes to my mum's time capsule, should I put my Facebook wall on CD, or print it out? Should I send back my dated Snoopy VHS and put that in too?
This is probably not the kind of debate that would take place 100 years ago. It would be funny if the time capsule only contained emails, Facebook posts and this blog post discussing what should go into a time capsule, and nothing else. Imagine 100 years from now, digging up the most annoyingly post-modern time capsule ever!
What useless thing did you keep with you when you moved or traveled somewhere new?
What would you put in a time capsule? What should my mum put in her time capsule?
How will you feel in 50 years looking back at your old Facebook timeline?