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Encapsulating time: What will represent 2021 in 150 years?

Brainerd residents get to participate in creating a time capsule to be opened in 150 years.

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June, 18, 2021, at the Crow Wing County Historical Society Museum and Research Library in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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What should people living in the year 2171 know about life in Brainerd today?

That’s the question posed to the community by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce and the Crow Wing County Historical Society, which are partnering to create a time capsule for the city’s sesquicentennial.

“I’m just excited that we know we’ll have some things from this time period,” Hillary Swanson, executive director of the Crow Wing County Historical Society, said during a phone interview Thursday, Aug. 19, as she thought about the future.

“One of the reasons I'm most excited about this in particular is because we have a hard time — other than things that we collect personally ourselves — getting people to donate things that are ‘newer,’ like things from the ‘80s or the ‘90s, because they don't consider those items old or significant in any way,” Swanson said. “But had people not kept the things that are 200- or 300- years old, we wouldn't have anything now to look back at.”

And Brainerd residents are invited to help by suggesting items via a survey at surveymonkey.com/r/XZQYWJR . The survey will be open until Friday, Aug. 27. A special selection committee will choose about 10 items to ultimately place in the time capsule. Those whose suggestions are chosen will receive $50 in Chamber Bucks, which can be used at various chamber member businesses.

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The chamber plans to host a special Business After Hours event from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Sept. 22, at Rumbly Hall in downtown Brainerd to celebrate the city’s 150th anniversary, honor Brainerd businesses that are 50 years or older and reveal what will go in the time capsule.

While Brainerd turns 150 in 2021, the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce turns 139. It began as the Brainerd Board of Trade in 1882 in response to the railroad boom at the time, according to Chamber President Matt Kilian.

“We have a long history within the community, and we wanted to take part in the sesquicentennial and do something that really marks this moment in time,” Kilian said. “So we definitely wanted to have an event, but beyond the event, how can we leave our own legacy as a community for future generations, and specifically what business was like in the year 2021?”

Businesses themselves — or individuals, families or groups — can leave their own mark by purchasing a caplet for $250 and placing their own objects inside. Each caplet is 10 inches long, 3 inches wide and 3 inches tall, and 50 of them will fit in the time capsule. Part of the proceeds from the caplets will be donated to the historic water tower preservation efforts.

Kilian estimates the whole time capsule itself to be roughly the size of a small footlocker — perhaps about 2 feet-by-3 feet.

When determining what to place in the time capsule, Swanson said people should take into account the rapid changes to technology — and whether some sort of tech gadget would be adaptive to 150 years in the future — and preservation.

“For instance, things that are printed out would need to be on archival paper, otherwise they would disintegrate over time,” she said. “So things like newspapers are great for current news, but eventually that would probably not be something that was able to be read in 150 years just because of what it’s printed on.”

Photographs would be better than digital photographs, she said, as long as they are clearly marked with who is in them and what is happening.

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“It’s not going to mean a whole lot if it doesn’t say who’s in the picture or if doesn’t have any context,” Swanson said.

Archiving everything in the capsule is going to be crucial for the same reason. A plain old hammer might not mean anything to those in 150 years, but if it’s noted that it was used to build something significant — like the new Gichi-Ziibi Center for the Arts — it becomes a lot more meaningful.

“Our job here at the Crow Wing County Historical Society is to tell the story of Crow Wing County,” Swanson said. “So we don’t just want to have old things. We want those old things to tell a story.”

For preservation purposes — and so it doesn’t get lost — the time capsule will likely be housed at the historical society instead of being buried.

For more information on the time capsule, visit the chamber website at brainerdlakeschamber.com .

How to get involved

  • Brainerd residents are invited to help by suggesting items via a survey at surveymonkey.com/r/XZQYWJR.

  • The survey will be open until Friday, Aug. 27. A special selection committee will choose about 10 items to ultimately place in the time capsule. Winning suggestions receive $50 in Chamber Bucks, which can be used at various chamber member businesses.

  • The Brainerd Lakes Chamber plans to host a special Business After Hours event from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Sept. 22, at Rumbly Hall in downtown Brainerd to celebrate the city’s 150th anniversary, honor Brainerd businesses that are 50 years or older and reveal what will go in the time capsule.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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