Crypt of Civilization – Atlanta, Georgia - Atlas Obscura

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Crypt of Civilization

Oglethorpe University

The world's first time capsule lies behind a welded steel door in Atlanta. 


The Crypt of Civilization at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, is widely considered to be the first conventional time capsule intended to be opened on a specific date in the future: May 28, 8113.

The time capsule was the brainchild of Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, former President of Oglethorpe University. He had been struck by the lack of information available about ancient cultures, and wanted to ensure that the artifacts and materials of his time would be preserved for future researchers. Work on this perfectly-preserved snapshot of time began in August 1937 and continued until June 1940.

Jacobs came up with a date to open the crypt based on his study of history. The Egyptian Calendar, created in the year 4241 B.C. marked the first fixed date in the history of man. Because exactly 6,177 years had passed from that date to 1936, when he first proposed the idea, Jacobs projected that same amount of time into the future for the crypt’s opening.

The crypt measures 20 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 10 feet tall. It is sealed behind a stainless steel door that has been welded shut. Its contents, inventoried at the crypt’s official website, include microfilms of 800 “authoritative books on every subject of importance known to mankind” and 200 works of fiction. Other highlights of the capsule’s collection include recordings of birdsong, “about one quart” of beer, model trains, a set of Lincoln Logs, sheet music, a flyswatter,  a grapefruit corer, and a copy of the New York Herald-Tribune.

Jacobs and his team took extensive measures to protect these precious artifacts. The room that houses the Crypt of Civilization was once a swimming pool, so its foundation was already waterproof. They added a thick layer of concrete to the floor and lined the walls with enamel embedded in pitch. Before sealing, the room was filled with nitrogen to prevent aging.

Know Before You Go

The Crypt of Civilization is located in the basement of Phoebe Hearst Hall, behind a welded steel door. While Hearst Hall is generally unlocked for visitors the basement doors may be locked. The welded steel doors can still be seen through some of the windows in the basement doors.

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