Museum Moves New York Times Time Capsule To Be Opened in the Year 3000


Photo by Judy C.

By Alex Israel

On Thursday night, the Museum of Natural History moved a time capsule that’s set to be opened in about 1,000 years. The capsule was moved to make way for construction on the Museum’s new Richard Gilder Center, according to a presentation at a Community Board 7 Parks & Environment Committee meeting earlier this month.

The New York Times Capsule, encased within a 5′ x 5′ x 5′ sculpture of welded stainless steel designed by Santiago Calatrava, has sat outside the Museum’s Columbus Avenue entrance at 79th Street since 2001, and is to remain sealed until January 1, 3000.


Photo by Guy Mascioli.

According to a description of the exhibit from the Museum’s website, the capsule contains documentation of the twentieth century, including six issues of The New York Times Magazine, recordings of popular songs, and five one-minute audio portraits of New York City sounds recorded at 9:09 a.m. on 9/9/99.

During CB7’s Parks & Environment Committee meeting, representatives from AMNH proposed a new location for the capsule, whose current resting place will be the new home of a museum expansion. The suggested relocation is in a fenced off space outside the Museum’s 81st Street entrance between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, in front of the Rose Center for Earth and Space.


A rendering of the capsule’s new home.

In choosing to relocate the sculpture to about five feet off of the sidewalk and about eight feet back behind the benches, the intention is for it “to be visually accessed from multiple angles, to see its symmetry,” according to Joe James, an Associate Principal at Reed Hilderbrand, a landscape architecture firm advising on the project.

AMNH hopes the new location and its corresponding plaque will help clarify the purpose of the sculpture, and stop local children from climbing on it. “The Times Capsule was never intended to be a playground element,” said Daniel Slippen, VP of government relations at AMNH. “So taking it off the plaza was a real focus for the Museum.”

To avoid risking any damage to the sculpture throughout the duration of the construction period, AMNH intends to store the capsule in a warehouse maintained by Tatti Art Conservation.

NEWS | 16 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:

      Best route would be to lose the capsule meant to “document{ation of} the twentieth century”.

      These contents would only serve to provide a confused representation of our wide world: “six issues of The New York Times Magazine, recordings of popular songs, and five one-minute audio portraits of New York City sounds recorded at 9:09 a.m. on 9/9/99.”

      • ScooterStan says:

        AGREE TOTALLY !!

        SIX issues of the NYT Magazine 😳
        Why SIX, why not just ONE?

        How representative of today’s multi-ethnic/multi-cultural/multi-national NYC’s FIVE BOROUGHs is that often-boring and-always-smug bastion of the aspirational middle-brow Manhattanite/suburbanite reader?

        Why not copies of what real people read, such as:
        The Daily News, The New York Post, New York Magazine, El Diario, Amsterdam News, New York Carib News, China Daily, The Korea Times, OR ANY OF THE DOZENS OF DAILY/WEEKLY ethnic and local newspapers?

        Of course, because it was sealed in 1999, the capsule will NEVER show the amazing influence of the Web on NYC, especially the importance of Hyper-Local informative blogs like WSR.

        Nor (obviously) could it include ANYTHING about the devastation of 9/11 and the amazing recovery of lower Manhattan afterward.

        And, were it to be opened in 3000, amidst breathless claims that this silver-thingy had been designed by some dude named Calatrava, one can imagine the universal reaction: “Whooo-Dat?”

    2. Dr. Cary Goodman says:

      No wonder the New York Times has NEVER covered the community’s opposition to the proposed expansion. After three years of petitions, protests and public outcry, the paper has ignored “the other side of the story.” Perhaps they only care about metallic objects branded with their name, not natural elements needed and beloved by the neighborhood.

    3. a. says:

      This breaks my heart. My kids learned to walk around that statue–we called it The Fortune Cookie. It was a hub for parents of little kids. I hate that the rendering shows it behind a fence.

    4. Otis says:

      Always thought it was a fortune cookie

    5. John says:

      I don’t think anyone will be here in 1000 years humans will a thing of the past, why waste the money

    6. TR Park says:

      So the museum thinks the time capsule will be at risk of damage during construction even if relocated far around the corner to the 81st St Planetarium entrance? That means everything in that entire corridor of the park– all the beautiful elms and oaks, the lawns and plantings, the dog run– is at risk of major damage.
      So much for promises to protect and preserve the character of our lovely neighborhood park.

    7. BillyNYC says:

      YES!
      The Gilder Center project is under way!!!!!!!

    8. Gretchen Berger says:

      Wow, how exciting! Can’t wait till 3000!! Literally, can’t wait. And then there will probably be a line to get in.

    9. Chrigid says:

      this is so bizarre–does NYT assume there will be no libraries, no archives, not even its own archives, but there will be people around to open a metal fortune cookie?

      no bubble gum?
      no iterations of roller skates?
      no hats?
      no lumps of coal?
      no horse manure?
      no photos beyond those in the six NYT copies?

    10. Paul G says:

      if they are so worried about kids climbing on it, how do they expect it to last 1000 years?