Remember 2010? Time capsule for 2035 on display at Mesa Lab

As part of the UCAR/NCAR’s 50th anniversary celebrations, a time capsule centered on the theme “What was life like in 2010 at UCAR/NCAR?” has been filled with more than 90 items that provide a snapshot of the organization. The items range from an all-staff photo taken at last year’s fall party to a 32-bit communication board to a copy of NCAR’s Twitter page.

Suggestions for what to include in the time capsule were sought from staff. (Visit the exhibit’s webpage for a complete list.) A selection committee determined the final contents, ensuring that as many aspects of life at UCAR/NCAR as possible were represented.

Rather than burying the capsule, organizers opted to keep it above ground for a better chance that it will make it to the 2030s intact. A selection of the capsule’s contents are on display in the Mesa Lab exhibits area, and the majority of items are stored safely in the NCAR Archives to ensure their preservation. Burying a time capsule threatens its preservation for many reasons, including temperature extremes, humidity, insects, Earth movements, and leaks and rust, according to NCAR archivist Kate Legg. “Storing our time capsule in the Archives in preservation-quality boxes helps minimize deterioration and ensures that in 2035 there will be a successful unveiling of the contents,” she says.

Many of the contents of the time capsule were “born digital” and exist on flash drives and DVDs, a reflection of life in 2010. Because the threat of technologically obsolete storage media is a concern, hardcopy printouts are being stored in the Archives with their digital counterparts.

“Preserving digital content is one of the largest issues facing archivists and other curators, with ever-changing storage media and software,” Kate says. “Technology has allowed us to record even more about our lives than ever before, but the way we record it is less stable than traditional paper and thus may be inaccessible to historians and scholars in the future.” Indeed, the flash drives and DVDs themselves may be viewed as relics of the past in 2035, offering a curiosity to future staff.