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    29 Apr 2017

    The Crypt of Civilization

    Under the foundation of Phoebe Hearst Memorial Hall at Oglethorpe University in Georgia, the United States, is a large room, that was sealed shut with a welded stainless steel door more than seventy five years ago. A plaque on this door strictly forbids anyone from attempting to open the door for another six thousand years.

    Behind this steel door is an assortment of artifacts and documents comprising nearly all of humanity's knowledge, as it was in 1940. This room is the Crypt of Civilization, and it represents the first successful attempt to record and preserve a snapshot of human culture and civilization for future inhabitants of planet Earth. It was the world’s first time capsule.
    The idea for the time capsule was conceived by Dr. Thornwell Jacobs in 1936, who was at that time the president of Oglethorpe University. While researching and teaching about ancient cultures, Jacobs was struck by the lack of information on past civilizations. This led him to the idea of creating a record of what life on earth was like, to lessen the struggles of future historians who might want to study our present civilization.

    To assist him in this tremendous task, Dr. Jacobs sought the help of Thomas K. Peters, a pioneer American motion picture producer, photographer, and inventor. Peters was assigned the job of the project archivist and general manager of development and construction.

    Work on the crypt commenced in August, 1937, and over the next three years, Peter’s crew collected an astounding number of items including Budweiser beer, dentures, male and female mannequins, aluminum foil, board games, plastic toys, dishes, Vaseline, pantyhose, electric razors, sewing machine, calculator, seeds and what not. You can find the complete inventory here. Additionally, more than six hundred thousand pages of written material compiling the vast knowledge we've acquired over the last 6,000 years was collected on microfilm. The crypt also contains voice recordings of historical figures such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, and Franklin Roosevelt. Unusual sound clips were also included, such as the cartoon character Popeye the Sailor and a champion hog caller. Dr. Jacobs refrained from including gold, silver, or jewels to make the crypt unattractive to vandals.

    The site chosen for the preservation of the crypt was in the basement of Phoebe Hearst Hall at Oglethorpe University, which had previously held a swimming pool. The room measured twenty feet long, ten feet wide, and ten feet high and was built into the solid granite bedrock, seven feet underground. The walls were lined with porcelain enamel plates embedded in waterproof pitch. All items were placed inside steel receptacles with glass linings, filled with inert gas of nitrogen to prevent oxidation and aging.







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