What Should Be in Hawai‘i’s Next 50-Year Time Capsule?

You have until May 15 to help the state decide what artifacts will hold the memories about life in Hawai‘i in the early 2000s.
time capsule Hawaii 50
Some of the items in the 1969 time capsule, including the master plan for the then new state capitol, a city directory, photo albums and a souvenir medallion created for statehood.
Photo: Christi Young


When the state discovered a copper container behind 3 inches of concrete in the wall of the Hawai‘i State Capitol, it was a surprise. Inside, legislative photo albums, calendars, deteriorating microfiche—which had a strong vinegar scent that infiltrated the state archives the day of the time capsule press conference—and a city directory gave us a glimpse of official life in 1969.


In a few months, a new capsule will be buried back in that same spot, this time with the process and location well documented. What will be inside could be determined by you. A Time Capsule Committee consisting of archivists, state officials and community members opened nominations through a website in March and extended the deadline to submit until May 15.


So far, about 90 suggestions have been sent in. State Archivist Adam Jansen, a member of the committee, couldn’t tell us exactly what items have been nominated—the items are supposed to be a surprise until the big reveal, after all—but did say many of them are tied to the ‘āina. (Dirt? Plants? Rocks? We couldn’t figure it out.) He also noted that anyone else who has a great idea of something that could capture the Hawai‘i of today should keep a few things in mind: preservability (no food please), the size of the object, how difficult it would be to get it, and the historical or cultural significance.


SEE ALSO: Hunt for Hawai‘i History in the Heart of Honolulu


“While there have been some very interesting suggestions,” Jansen told us in an email, “they just haven’t been practical from an implementation standpoint (i.e., object was too large or too expensive to place into the time capsule).”


One thing is already guaranteed; the look of the time capsule itself. The specially designed stainless-steel box is already on display at the Hawai‘i State Public Library on South King Street, just in front of the archives building. It has a bolt on the cover versus the soldered copper container of 1969. That one caused some nerve-wracking moments when people had to cut blindly into it, hoping they wouldn’t slice into any important or irreplaceable artifacts. They didn’t.


The committee will meet in June to pick 20 ideas to consider. How many will actually get into the capsule won’t be announced until it’s uncovered again in 50 years. So stand by.


For more information, visit ags.hawaii.gov