Archivists don’t do time capsules. Here’s why…

by Sally J.

<span class=

One of the most basic rules of preservation is this:

If you want something to last fifty years or more, do NOT store it underground.*

Why oh why do otherwise rational humans insist on burying their treasures?

What you see in the amazing photo above is the most common kind of damage you get when you bury something: water damage. That 1957 Plymouth sure was purty. I suppose it has a different kind of beauty now.

Unlike most time capsules, this one consisted very few items: The 1957 Plymouth, a bottle of tranquilizers, an unpaid parking ticket, several combs and a few bobby pins. Curious about why these items were chosen? Read more about Tulsa’s buried car time capsule here.

*Underground = Bad. That includes your basement, by the way. But wait! There is an exception to the “no bury” rule, and that’s salt mines. Even so, this kind of move is safest in the hands of professionals.

Photo by Michael Bates.

You can gawk at more hauntingly beautiful photos of Tulsa’s Buried Car in Michael’s Flickr photostream.

Sally J. June 26, 2007 at 2:00 am


I really enjoyed your photos. Thanks for sharing them via flickr.

As for time capsules… sometimes they stay water tight, sometimes they don’t. The tricky part is that you never know ahead of time which ones will fail. You don’t learn that crucial information until it’s too late.

MichaelBates June 25, 2007 at 6:30 pm

And if you do store it underground, bury it in an airtight steel boiler, as they did with the actual time capsule, which was buried in the same vault as the car. The time capsule was covered in rust, but the contents were dry and pristine, as you’ll see in the later photos in my Buried Car photo set. (Start here and browse forward.) It took a circular saw and a hammer and chisel to open the time capsule.

Thanks for the compliment on the photographs. Decay has a certain photogenic quality, and it should serve as a warning to us all.

Previous post:

Next post: