What to put in a time capsule?

Headshot of Gerald Hay

Fifty years ago, Jim Croce recorded Time in a Bottle, releasing the song in 1973.

Johnson County is planning to encapsulate time of the present, not in a bottle but in a suitable, protective, watertight container, to be opened decades from now. The new time capsule is part of second phase of enhancements to the Johnson County Square in downtown Olathe with work starting by the end of this year and completion/ dedication in 2023.

That begs the question: What item(s) would you put in a time capsule that best captures life in Johnson County now or in recent history?

Suggestions, no more than three, on items to put in the new time capsule are encouraged by using the online form and briefly explaining the reasoning behind them. Suggestions can also be mailed to:

The Best Times
Attention: Time capsule
111 South Cherry St.
Olathe, KS 66061

Do we borrow guidance from the 1952 time capsule from the old courthouse? That copper box was opened a few months ago and was mostly filled with paper items, including letters, old newspapers, news clippings, phone books, community pamphlets and photos. See story on pages 14-15. A few things do come to mind.

A N95 face mask, home test kit or COVID-19 guidelines/signage probably are a shoo-in.

In this digital era and this generation’s dependence on technology, a cellphone, iPad, laptop, CDs, flash drives, etc. can provide a lot of digital stuff with chips and billions of transistors. How will modern devices weather prolonged time in an enclosed container? Will the information be accessible by future generations with constant changing technology? A roll of microfilm found in the 1952 time capsule was degraded and not viewable.

Pictures, indeed, are worth a thousand words, but photos of what: People, places, things or events in our community?

A letter or letters are also essential. They probably should be written or typed and printed on paper, but from whom and what messages, thoughts or feelings?

Recent newspapers and magazines while printed publications currently still exist, facing future uncertainty in the growing online and digital age.

A current map of Johnson County could be included, showing current boundaries of cities and school districts and reflecting that 37% of the county was unincorporated when the time capsule was completed in 2023.

Other suggestions and possible items are most welcomed.

Plans for Johnson County’s new time capsule are still in the works with a size of the container yet to be determined. It probably will not be buried, but public displayed in a matter that houses and protects the contents from water seepage, natural elements and passage of time.

The new time capsule will be part of a new Memorial Plaza to commemorate the opening of the new courthouse at the start of 2021 and dedication of the redesigned Johnson County Square in 2022. The plaza will be located near the Children of the Trails Fountain at the southern end of the square near the Administration Building.

Another question would be when would be a good time to open the new time capsule? Perhaps in celebration (32 years) of Johnson County’s bicentennial on Aug. 25, 2055, or the nation’s tricentennial (53 years) on July 4, 2076.

Another option is an opening in 77 years at the turn of the century (2100) to commemorate the designed longevity of Johnson County’s new courthouse which was built to serve the county for 75 years. The 1952 time capsule was not opened for 71 years and most of its contents had stood the test of time quite well.

Let us know.