Time Capsule Recommendations from Region 1




The contents are limited only by your imagination if you follow the preservation tips below.

Contents ideas include: autographs, autographed copies of books or other publications about the refuge, badges, biographies of important people in the refuge's history, blueprints of buildings, calendar of events, commemorative pins, copies of historical documents, drawings/essays by students, tourism brochures and magazines that mention the refuge, print out of your refuge's web pages, invitations to past and current celebrations, letters from current staff to their successors, letters from the local community, letterhead and business cards, logos, maps of the refuge, management plans, newspapers, paintings, prints and lithographs, photographs of places, people and occasions, postcards, posters, refuge brochures, T-shirts and hats, time sheets, uniforms, annual narrative reports. What do you want people 100 years from now to know about your refuge?

Keep an Inventory Make a detailed list of the items you will be placing in the time capsule and the construction of each item, including the time capsule itself. List the reason for the time capsule, the contributors, and who will be present at the sealing of the capsule. Most importantly, describe the color and composition of each article, as this will help future researchers to identify items in the time capsule since objects can change over time. Retain a copy of this information and include a copy inside the time capsule.

Make sure your items will fit in the time capsule. If you are going to place the items in your time capsule as part of your special time capsule event, hold a rehearsal ahead of time so you will know how to fit all the items in the container. Remember that the time capsule will be heavy when it is full.

Place the time capsule on your refuge and regional property lists and include a copy of the detailed record of contents. This is one way to ensure that future generations of refuge managers know about the time capsule, its purpose and where it is located.


Experts recommend that care be taken to prevent deterioration for at least 100 years. You should use commercial archival kits and choose items that will not promote mold or rot. Technology that may not be around in 100 years should be avoided. The Regional Cultural Resources Team can provide advice on items to include and how to properly archive them. See the article on Bird Feather Preservation.

Hints and Tips (courtesy of Conservation Resources (U.K.) Ltd.) 
  • Wear cotton gloves when handling items prior to insertion and try to maintain a clean, pollution-free environment for your material. Oil from your fingers can soil items and may cause corrosion on contact with airborne pollutants. 
  • Don't include unstable items which may release gas or deteriorate. Rubber and wool release sulfur gas; wood must be sealed away from metal objects or electronic equipment; polyethylene can permeate moisture as it ages so must be encapsulated in a waterproof container; PVC will break down and release acids into the capsule; diazzo film releases ammonia which will cause deterioration of the materials; foodstuffs decompose and will cause cross-contamination. 
  • Place any suspect items in sealed, non-permeable, airtight bags with oxygen scavengers to absorb oxygen. 
  • Use archival inks, archival stable water colors and archival quality papers. 
  • Don't use unstable mediums to create written, drawn or painted items. 
  • Deacidify newsprint and other papers. 
  • Include photocopies produced using stable quality processes, preferably black toned print (not color) produced on archival quality photocopy paper. 
  • Don't include thermally produced facsimile or scanner/plotter papers. 
  • Do include fiber based black and white or cibachrome photographic prints rather than color print or film material. Include a desiccant bag. 
  • Remember to include information about how various items were created, including software packages and format of equipment. Include instruction for playback of any recording equipment. 
  • Use papers with a pH of 6.0 to 8.5, alkaline buffered, lignin and sulfur free, and use only archival quality adhesives. 
  • Use inert polyester or inert archival polypropylene to create protective wrappers or enclosures. 
  • Don't use PVC or PVAC , including plastic food wrap, as these films will deteriorate releasing acetic and hydrochloric acid. 
  • Replace the oxygen in the time capsule with argon or nitrogen gas, and include an oxygen absorber or scavenger to destroy any oxygen which leaks into the capsule.
Safe and Unsafe Materials
  • Electronics are a problem. If you include video or audio tapes or compact disks, the equipment to play them back may not be available when the time capsule is opened. Furthermore, the tapes or disks may have deteriorated. Include instructions on any intended playback equipment. For computer tapes, add a written copy of the software, and identify the computer type. 
  • In general, properly processed, fiber-based, black-and-white photographic prints, preferably treated with gold, selenium or poly-sulfide toner, keep best. Photographic films coated on a polyester base rather than an acetate base are more stable. Color prints and slides can fade even when kept in the dark. 
  • Newsprint is acidic and deteriorates easily. A local museum or library should have names of paper conservators. The alternative is to make photocopies on archival quality paper (high-alpha cellulose) with an alkaline reserve of pH 7.5-8.0. 
  • Objects made of rubber should not be placed in time capsules since rubber deteriorates over time, releasing sulfur. 
  • All wood, especially oak, gives off acid vapors and must be sealed away from electronic equipment or metal articles, especially those made of lead, or lead-containing alloys, in the time capsule. 
  • Textiles should be clean and insect free. Characteristics of fibers that might be used in a time capsule:- Cotton: Acts as a humidity buffer if temperature changes.- Polyester: Stable.- Silk: May deteriorate in oxygen atmosphere.- Wool and Hair: Contain sulfur; may outgas and corrode metal. 
Favorable Conditions
  • Prepare contents to be placed in the time capsule in a cool, dry environment. Silica gel will help to buffer the humidity in the capsule. It is sold in granular form in art supply stores, hardware stores, and some department store closet shops. It must be conditioned to a low humidity level before use. ART-SORB, a more costly but easy-to-use form of silica gel, is available from conservation suppliers. 
  • Argon or nitrogen gas may be introduced into the capsule to replace oxygen. Bottled gas companies can supply these gases.