Time Capsules

Time to Set the Record Straight

Scientists have jousted over concepts of time and relativity for a good long while. Perhaps it’s necessary that the discussion be turned over to humanists and historians. Here at the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History, we¬†know¬†that time and history¬†are¬†relative. Instead of experiments, we have community experience to prove this point!

Through the fall of 2005, the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History worked in partnership with the City of Cranbrook and volunteer citizens to commemorate Cranbrook’s centennial year. Participating in the assembly of a time capsule became one of our focus projects for the commemorative festivities. In doing so, we worked with our partners to define Cranbrook’s history through the voluntary donation of documents, material items, and photographs. Time and history became… relative! Representing our region’s history accurately required hard work as we sought to understand everybody’s different perceptions of the passing of time.

The mandate of the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History is to make the history of the Columbia Basin accessible, inclusive, and educational. We aim to do this by using a diversity of mediums and methods. Traditional histories have marginalized many of the Basin’s citizens. For this reason, our approach in assembling the time capsule was meant to be as inclusive as possible.

Building on the work done by the official time capsule committee, we began to identify the different communities that contribute to the larger Corporation of Cranbrook. Long before our region was named Cranbrook by Col. James Baker, the Ktunaxa Nation referred to the area as¬†?Akiskaqti?it. Their creation story is an important cultural representation of this area’s history and speaks of the Columbia Basin as a unified landscape. Responding to our invitation for submission to the time capsule project, the Ktunaxa donated a copy of their creation story. The story was printed in the Ktunaxa language on one side and translated into English on the other. The borders of the page were signed by members of the Ktunaxa Nation.

Our city has an integrated natural and cultural history, and it was important to represent both in Cranbrook’s centennial time capsule. This goal offered an opportunity to collaborate with other local non-profit societies like the Rocky Mountain Naturalists. Documenting the biological diversity of the area is one of the activities pursued by the Rocky Mountain Naturalists, and they were pleased to share relevant information for inclusion in the time capsule. A published checklist entitled East Kootenay Birds of the Upper Kootenay River was donated. In addition, results for the 2004 Cranbrook and Kimberley Annual Audobon Christmas Bird Count were submitted. We hope that Christmas bird count events are still being organized by enthused birdwatchers in 2105 when the time capsule is opened.

History is sometimes viewed as a ‘marginal’ interest of youth. This need not (and should not) be so. There was unanimous agreement amongst our time capsule volunteers that the project strive to involve and engage youth in the Cranbrook area. As part of this mandate, we invited grade four students to write opinion letters for submission to the time capsule. They were asked to consider the following questions in their letters: What do you do in Cranbrook?, What changes are you seeking to make in Cranbrook?, and What changes affecting youth do you think will manifest here over the next one hundred years?

The students responded with compelling pieces that confirmed the importance of natural and cultural spaces in our community and surroundings. Fort Steele, Fisherville, Idlewild Park and the Cranbrook Community Forest were featured in the letters, reminding the citizens of Cranbrook that it is our responsibility to maintain long-term access to these places.

In addition to collecting documents and photographs for submission to the time capsule, the Columbia Basin Institute worked diligently to create a capsule that will maintain its integrity over the next hundred years. This was a challenge. We were, in effect, applying the science of conservation against the reason of the heart. We did establish conservation parameters around suggested items for submission. But human sentiment cannot be contained by prescription. It is too early to know if all the items in the time capsule will exist in preserved form when it is opened in 2105. This is part of the history that we now leave for future citizens of Cranbrook. With any luck, they will smile as they think of the discussions that ensued during the process of assembly.

Cranbrook was incorporated as a city on November 1, 1905. On the exact date of the City’s centennial anniversary the time capsule was commemorated at the Cranbrook Public Library. It will be stored there as part of a permanent display until the bicentennial is celebrated. We hope that the creative energy of the Library will feed the imaginations of passersby as they examine the time capsule exterior in anticipation of 2105.