Four tips for building a successful digital time capsule

Curt Witcher

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You’ve probably heard of time capsules, those collections of memorabilia—letters, photos, coins, newspapers, etc.—that document a place, an organization, an event, or a family. These everyday artifacts are sealed off, buried, and set aside for later generations to open. According to history.com, tens of thousands of these are scattered around the world since the practice first caught on in the 19th and 20th centuries. The objective of time capsules is to help future archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians discover a little bit about the people of the time.

Well, time capsules have moved into the digital age. And many libraries are taking the lead in bringing their communities together to build digital community albums and time capsules with audio, video, and image files. One of those libraries is my library, the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA.

For the past 12 years, we have organized and managed “A Day in Allen County” where we enlist community members to capture a slice of their lives with their digital devices during a 24-hour period, and then submit their files to the library. Today, that collection stands at nearly 2,500 images, ranging from pictures of local eateries and businesses to back yards and plants and sunrises and parks.

As Manager of the program, here are my four secrets to connecting with the community and building a digital time capsule:

  1. Talk about the event on social media
  2. Reach out directly to a few key people—photographers, local historians—in the community
  3. Advertise and promote the day
  4. Point to other projects as examples

An event like “A Day In Allen County” is a neat way of recording the history of your community and its people. And it’s a perfect way for your library to reach out and engage the public with a fun event. It’s not hard, it can help build new connections and supporters, and I really recommend you give it a try.