Buried Treasure

Capture precious moments with a Family Time Capsule.

Buried Treasure


It’s easy to forget the daily occurrences and accomplishments that carry us from one year to the next. Not wanting to lose some of those precious moments, the Kewin family took action. Ten years ago, they built a family time capsule.

Parents Shannon & Dan and kids, Nick, 8, and Brittany, 10, scoured their home to put together an archive of their lives in 2003. Each of them brought five items and a letter addressed to themselves. The letters included details of their lives, achievements, friends, and hopes and predictions for the future.

They placed everything in a cardboard box, and dug a hole near the glorious birch tree in their backyard. “We brought along hot chocolate and Dan made a funny little dedication speech, which we all toasted,” says Shannon. “We covered the time capsule with dirt and chatted about what it would be like to open the contents in future. We had a great time.”

A decade later, in spring 2013, the Kewins reunited at the family home to dig up their time capsule. Sitting under the old birch tree, they made discovery after discovery, showing off old toys, class photos, trinkets, report cards, artwork and more to each other, laughing all the while. “I found a terrible portrait I painted of my mother which had us all in stitches,” says Brittany.
While funny and invigorating, Shannon says opening the time capsule was also “one of the most emotional experiences we’ve had as a family.”

How-to guide

There’s no doubt that putting together a time capsule is a great way to strengthen and nourish family bonds. Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

A time capsule can be used to capture specific events and experiences – such as birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc., – or act as a snapshot of everyday life. It can include virtually anything you want – cards, printed emails, ticket stubs, drawings, candles, ceramics, handprints, key chains, clothing, coins, song lyrics, written stories, books – you name it. But don’t let the kids add anything perishable or living! “Nick tried to sneak in his favourite chocolate bar because he wanted to see what it would taste like after being buried for 10 years,” says Dan. “We told him ‘not very good’ as we retrieved it.”

You can also include letters to your future selves in your time capsule, like the Kewins did. “As a 20-year old, it was hilarious and also strange to read a letter from my 10-year old self,” says Brittany. “One of my life goals was to become a mermaid,” she laughs. “Sadly, that didn’t happen, so I studied social work instead.”

You don’t want your time capsule to be too cumbersome, so it’s best to limit the number of items each family member puts in. Don’t forget to make a list of the contents and the reason why things were included. You might not remember their significance when the time comes to open your time capsule.

While a cardboard box worked just fine for the Kewins, a container that is airtight, non-biodegradable, waterproof, and fireproof will better protect the contents from mould and moisture. If you do use a cardboard box, make sure you seal it well. To safeguard individual items, place them in Ziploc bags, glass jars with lids, envelopes or folders. Photos should be printed on acid-free paper and also enclosed in Ziploc bags.

Where should you hide your time capsule? Burying it on your property may sound like a good idea, but what happens if you move? The best option is to hide it in a cool dry place in your house where the kids can’t get at it, such as the upper shelf of a closet. Avoid attics, which can expose your capsule to temperature extremes, and basements, which can flood.

While the Kewin family waited 10 years to dig up their time capsule, the amount of time between hiding and opening can be as long as you like – 2, 5, 10, or 20 years. “Waiting a decade to dig up our old stuff was perfect for us,” says Shannon. “We forget about those little things that happen in our lives. There were items in that box that none of us had given any thought to for years and years.”

Pick a date to open your time capsule and record it somewhere. While you want everybody to forget about it for a time to increase the surprise, you don’t want to forget about it altogether!!!

Author: Kiera Toffelmire

Kiera Toffelmire is a freelance writer and the community coordinator for Trent Active Minds.

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