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Curious Frame - Issue #22 - Time Capsules

Curious Frame
Curious Frame - Issue #22 - Time Capsules
By Leanne Staples • Issue #22 • View online
As a student, I was not very good at memorizing facts and I found many subjects in school to be boring or difficult to comprehend. I was not a great student by any stretch of the imagination.
When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder I can think at all
And though my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall. 
Paul Simon, Kodachrome
We all learn in different ways and unfortunately, most teaching methods in schools leave many people behind as a result. Perhaps I am now beginning to catch up.
Though much of education relies on the written word, photography and images tend to have a more lasting effect on our ability to comprehend and remember.
This issue of the newsletter is about time capsules. While the way that I use the idea of time capsules is not necessarily the original or proper representation of the concept, you must know by now that I am rarely orthodox in my views or methods. I do what feels right for me.
Thank you to everyone for your well wishes. I am still recovering.
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Readers comments:
Don’t keep those thoughts to yourself. Curious Frame is about dialogue and I’d love to hear your comments or even questions or inspirations. And it’s easy. Just hit reply in your email.
Your opinions are valued. No advanced degrees or education required. Comments below are from Issue 20 Photography is Magic Part two
One reader wrote:
I’ve been so busy these past few weeks that I couldn’t find time to read your newsletters. Today I caught up and read issues 16-20. As usual, they were filled with insightful ideas and perceptive philosophy. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts, photos, book recommendations, and video links; always an education and inspiration.
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Remember the days when the streets were overcrowded? The days before the pandemic? Some photos are now a throwback to a previous era! That is a fast shift in how we think and see the world we live in. This photomontage might very well make it into a time capsule for life before the pandemic.
Remember the days when the streets were overcrowded? The days before the pandemic? Some photos are now a throwback to a previous era! That is a fast shift in how we think and see the world we live in. This photomontage might very well make it into a time capsule for life before the pandemic.
Time Capsules
I imagine you asking me “why are you writing about time capsules in Curious Frame?” Good question. There are so many things in the world that we would not be aware of without photography.
I also imagine creating time capsules entirely out of photographs. I’ve been thinking about creating my own time capsules with my photos and with photos of things as documents, relics of the times and also using photographs by others as well. More about that later.
Hatchfield holding the 1652 “Pine Tree Shilling” found in the capsule at the Massachusetts State House Time Capsule.
Hatchfield holding the 1652 “Pine Tree Shilling” found in the capsule at the Massachusetts State House Time Capsule.
Time capsules are perhaps as old as the beginning of humanity. In the United States the first time capsule was created by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere in 1795 and contains coins, newspapers, a medal depicting George Washington and many other relics from the times including a silver coin from 1652 shown above.
Some time capsules are intended to remain closed for long periods of time with a date far off in the future for people to see what the world was like once upon a time.
Of course, people are choosing what they think are some of the most important things to include. And yes, there are many things that are not included.
Other time capsules are created with the idea that maybe it will be found by alien life forms somewhere out in a galaxy far far away. We can perhaps see a time capsule as a kind of encyclopedia.
You want to know what the world was like in 1937? The Crypt of Civilization will probably provide an good understanding.
You want to know what the world was like in 1937? The Crypt of Civilization will probably provide an good understanding.
The Crypt of Civilization is a impenetrable airtight chamber, built between 1937 and 1940, at the Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven, Georgia. The 2,000-cubic-foot (57 m3) repository is meant not to be opened before 8113 A.D. and contains numerous artifacts and sound recordings of one type or another that illustrate civilization and human development to the 20th century. Classic literature and religious texts were also deposited, as well as items showing the extent of scientific progress to 1939. - Wikipedia
If you want to see the contents of the Crypt of Civilization, you’ll have to be reincarnated and living in the year 8113! But we can see a photo of the contents of it. It’s fascinating to see this collection as if it’s a museum of curated contents.
To curate means to care for and it derives from the French word for the heart. The feminine version of curator is curatrix. Cool. You can collect and be your own curator of a time capsule and include what is important to you.
(2000 zero zero, party over, oops, out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999)
Prince, 1999, recorded in 1982
Photography is interesting for both what it reveals and also what it conceals. How cool would it be to be there and see the Crypt of Civilization opened in the year 8113? A single photo can stir the imagination.
What do you remember about the year 1999? Life was really different then. What would be in your time capsule for that year? The world was so different then. Do you remember Y2K?
Andy Warhol, Time Capsule 21
Andy Warhol, Time Capsule 21
The Andy Warhol Museum has a collection of Warhol’s time capsules and there are special events when opening them. They contain all kinds of artifacts including photographs, art and mundane things like receipts as well as newspapers.
Warhol created over 600 time capsules and you could say that he liked collecting things. Maybe we could say he was even a little obsessed with accumulating things. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see what got chosen. Much of it is everyday items that we may overlook.
My daughter was born on 22 November 1988, the 25th anniversary of the assassination of president John F Kennedy. I will always remember both events. A photo of the headlines of newspapers on that day will go in a time capsule.
With the internet I can source images to use. It isn’t necessary to have the actual artifact unless you want to sell your time capsule at auction!
History is not the past – it is the method we have evolved to organise our ignorance of the past. It’s a record of what’s left on the record. Hilary Mantel
A partial listing of those who died from the Coronavirus in 2020.
A partial listing of those who died from the Coronavirus in 2020.
The year 2020 was a year that will not be easily forgotten. And while it is easy to remember the toll that the Coronavirus has taken around the world and the Black Lives Matters protests to name only a few major stories, there are also other positive things that we can focus on.
While Warhol and others created time capsules on a daily basis to be seen in the future, I am interested in making them backwards. I like the idea of revisiting the past in this manner as it’s possible to situate events and objects in a context.
1961: New York Windows on Retronaut.com
1961: New York Windows on Retronaut.com
Yes, every picture tells a story. But the interesting thing about a group of images is that it begins to take on new meanings. Rather than one isolated image you create your story. It becomes personal.
There was a time in the late 70s and early 80s when I kept a scrapbook. I don’t know what inspired me to start it or even why I stopped adding to it. But it’s fun to look back and it’s one of the reasons that I’ve become interested in creating my own time capsules of the past.
Vancouver’s 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. I wasn't there but I was born in 1954.
Vancouver’s 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. I wasn't there but I was born in 1954.
I will let you know when I put together my first time capsule. If you have created one or you have some significant photos from your past that would become part of your time capsule, I’d love to hear about them.
So my idea of a time capsule is backwards, that is part of who I am. But hey I’m just creating my own museum!
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Further Viewing:
Warhol Time Capsule t/22 (t'68) - excerpt
Warhol Time Capsule t/22 (t'68) - excerpt
Here you can see an excerpt of the opening of one of the Warhol time capsules.
Further reading:
  • Wild, Chris. Retronaut: The Photographic Time Machine, National Geographic Society, 2014.
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Leanne Staples

In a world that is overpopulated with images, Curious Frame is where I share my thoughts on photography. It is always about ‘seeing with new eyes’.

I’m Leanne Staples, a photographer, artist, and writer living in New York City. Street photography and lens-based art are my passions, and Curious Frame is where I’ll be sharing my thoughts on these passions.

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