OLYMPIA - On Nov. 11, 1989, for Washington state's 100th birthday, then-Gov. Booth Gardner gave an oath to hundreds of 10-year-olds who had volunteered to be Keepers of the Washington Centennial Time Capsule. The capsule, which sits in the rotunda of the State Capitol, is unique. It is believed to be the first time capsule that can be updated, and consists of a large safe filled with 16 mini-time capsules, one of which is to be filled with new items every 25 years. It is the Keepers’ job to fill the next time capsule in the sequences and recruit a new generation of Keepers. All of the capsules are slated to be opened in 2389, the state's 500th birthday.
It is now time to prepare for the filling of the capsule for 2014. The Keepers – there originally were some 300 of them whose birthdays are on or around Nov. 11 – are being asked to convene for the first time since 1989 to begin the process of planning what will go into the time capsule on Nov. 11, 2014.
By rule, a meeting of Keepers will be held in the Capitol rotunda at noon on Nov. 12, 2013. It will be the first time the Keepers have formally gathered since they were sworn in nearly 24 years ago. The Office of Secretary of State has kept a list of the children – now adults – but the location of many Keepers is unknown. The meeting is an opportunity to reconnect with them in preparation for the state's upcoming 125th birthday.
A nonprofit organization, Keepers of the Capsule, was created in 1990. The board consists of Keepers, chaired by Jennifer Estroff of Seattle. The group is assisted by Putnam Barber, former head of the Washington State Centennial staff, and Knute Berger, writer and former coordinator of the Centennial Time Capsule project.
The group is working with the Office of Secretary of State, which has the duty of facilitating the Keepers’ work, and is actively seeking to contact more Keepers for participation.
“The state’s 125th anniversary and the time capsule’s opening next year will be a special celebration, and my office is pleased to be part of it,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “We hope anyone who was a Keeper of the Capsule can join the others at the November 12 gathering and help decide what will go into the time capsule in 2014.”
The Centennial Time Capsule project garnered worldwide publicity for its unique aspects, including the one-of-a-kind Keepers organization. Most capsules are buried, and many forgotten. In 1989, the project was covered by NPR, New York Times and People Magazine, which called it "A Time Capsule Time Won't Forget."
Keeping track of the Keepers over the last 25 years has proven tricky. Keepers come from all over the state and were originally recruited through newspapers, schools, and youth organizations. All Keepers are being asked to attend the Nov. 12 meeting in Olympia. Contact information is being updated and Keepers will be briefed on the time capsule project and asked to assist in preparing for 2014.
The Centennial Time Capsule is a large, above-ground, green safe on the south-side first floor of the Capitol in Olympia. It has a design of Native American origin, an image that represents the "Prophet of Direction" and was created by artist Greg Colfax of the Makah tribe to reflect "those men and women who, through prayer, dreams and personal hardships, went into the future and saw the direction people needed to take to survive." It is the symbol of the Capsule Keepers.
The safe contains some 10,000 messages to the future from ordinary Washington citizens in 1989, plus information and artifacts attempting to give a full picture of life and thought in that time. Those include newspapers, Microsoft software on a CD-ROM, an Indian basket, a Centennial banner taken into space by Washington astronaut Bonnie Dunbar, secret messages from the state's science fiction writers, a cookbook, a Washington state license plate dated 2389, Washington wines from 1989, and much more.