When archaeologists dig, they never know what they will find—pottery, gold jewelry, religious statues. Every object is like a message from the past, telling us what life was like long ago.

Imagine what archaeologists of the future will find in your hometown! Maybe a baseball or a computer? What messages would these things send about the way you lived?

Usually we don't think about the artifacts we leave behind. But by making time capsules, we can decide what message to send to the future about our own lives. The American Museum of Natural History has its own time capsule. It was started in 1999, to be opened in the year 3000. Many people suggested words, objects, and music for the  time  capsule. In the end, items were chosen that would tell people of the future about typical daily life in a small American town in 1999. Those items included a cell phone, a unicorn Beanie Baby, photographs and coins, and many other objects.

Time Capsule Ideas

Check out what these kids collected for their time capsules.


A Trip to New York

subway map, taxi keychain, Yankees cap keychain, pizza menu, postcards, cityscape snowglobe, magnets, mug, Statue of Liberty eraser, Empire State building statue

Being a Young Scientist

science books, microscope set, insect shed, compass, pupa in petrie dish, mineral sample box, binoculars, starfish, horseshoe crab

Now try making your own time capsule. If it were discovered years from now, what would the objects say about you and the time you lived in?

What You'll Need

  • A box with a lid
  • Items for your time capsule (5 to 10 things)
  • Materials to decorate your box (wrapping paper, markers, pencils, scissors, tape, old magazines)

What to Do

Step 1

Think about what messages you want your time capsule to send. You could focus on a special time in your life, like summer camp or fourth grade. Or you might highlight a part of your life, like learning ballet or playing on a baseball team

Step 2

Make a list of items that will get your message across. What objects would tell about your summer at camp, or what it's like to be part of a team? (If you use things that are important to you, make sure you're willing to part with them.)

Step 3

Collect the items. If you can't find an item or decide it's too valuable, you could draw a picture, cut one out of a magazine, or print one from a Web site. Or think about another object that might send the same message. When you're done, ask yourself if the items you've picked match the message you want to send.

Step 4

Decorate your box. Think about what message or images should go on the outside. You could cover your box with your own drawings, a poem, wrapping paper, a wish for the future, today's newspaper, or a collage of images from magazines. Decide when your time capsule should be opened and write the date on the lid.

Step 5

Put your items in the box and tape the lid.

Step 6

Now it's time to put away your time capsule. You can hide it or give it to a parent to put away in a safe place. Make a note of where you hid it!

Image Credits:

Photos: courtesy of AMNH