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The Crypt of Civilization is an airtight chamber located at the University of Atlanta, Georgia, sealed in 1940. The crypt consists of preserved artefacts scheduled to be opened in the year AD 8113. Its intention was to help future archaeologists, anthropologists and historians to create an image of that time. The Guinness Book of World Records cited the crypt as the “first successful attempt to bury a record of this culture for any future inhabitants or visitors to the planet Earth.” Though the term had not yet been coined at its inception, it was the first modern time capsule.
There were several specialists working on the capsule. Together they worked for about three years to collect all objects and documents before the capsule would close. In order to make it a success, all objects were put in separate bottles and boxes so they won’t infect each other. They chose the location of the crypt very carefully, for the former room used to be a swimmingpool. So they could rely on the fact the space would be waterproof. They put in an extra layer of cement, sealed it with a stainless steal door and filled it with inert gas to be sure the objects wouldn’t corrode by water and air. A device to create energy with some sort of windmill would make it possible to let devices such as film projectors work, in case there wouldn’t be any electricity in the future. In case the English language would have disappeared, a language device enables the future inhabitants to understand the documents. Instructions with drawings make it possible to read and understand the documents, but also to pronounce it right.
Although there were lots of specialists working on the capsule to make the Crypt of Civilization a success, it was forgotten after only 30 years. Dr. Thornwell Jacobs rediscovered the crypt, who started the International Timecapsule Society short after the discovery. The ITS main task is to register all timecapsules in the world, with the exact coordinates, date they were buried and supposed to be opened again, to be sure no timecapsule gets lost in the future.
The crypt’s list of inventory became the starting point of my project. I put the list on alphabetical order and made a photo of each letter containing objects beginning with the same letter. This system decided what would be on the picture and eventually resulted in a visual index of the world. I photographed the objects on a white background, referring to a packshot, in where every context of human beings is absent. Although the objects shown in each photo have nothing in common concerning the content, they still influence one another and each photo tells a story of its own. In the end the photos create a whole new world.
‘Crypt of Civilization’ is a research on why we feel the urge to make something for the far future of what there will be no benefit of during this civilization. And why we care for the future since we won’t be able to live it ourselves. And if the capsule will be found, what in the meanwhile has proven to be very doubtful, the loose objects and documents still have meaning and do actually create that image of a whole civilization, for the context of the objects have dissapeared for ages.