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Selection and Collection of the Contents

1st selection committee meeting: basic criteria

The selection committee met for the first time on April 20th, 1968, to decide on the basic criteria for selection of the contents of the capsule**. Considering the limited space available within the capsule – a sphere one metre in diameter – the selection policy had to be clearly defined and it was decided that the objects should fall into the following categories:

To simplify the selection procedure, the selection committee was sub-divided into three divisions: Natural Science, Social Science and the Arts. These divisional committees became responsible for selecting records and objects in their own field of interest, in line with the overall selection policy. At the same time, they worked closely with the technical committee on the practicality and preservation potential of every item under consideration.

** "Capsule" refers here and in ensuing discussions to each of the capsules and replicas: four capsules in all.

The first suggestions

Another subject of discussion at the first meeting was the value of soliciting suggestions from those not directly involved with the project. Already each member of the technical and selection committees had been asked to recommend three objects and three records suitable for inclusion in the capsule. At the same time they were asked to recommend more than five persons in Japan and more than five from overseas who could make a valuable contribution to the project.

The questionnaire

The selection committee decided to send a questionnaire to 500 people – 200 of them foreign – representing a wide variety of specialist fields, including research, administration, finance, commerce, mass-communications, art, music and sport. Appendix 5 gives details of this questionnaire and of the numbers of people in various countries to whom it was sent.

By the end of August, 1968, 327 objects had been suggested by Japanese respondents and 78 by non-Japanese. As for records, 470 had been recommended by Japanese respondents and 149 by non-Japanese. Altogether 1,024 recommendations were received from outside the committees. These were put together with recommendations from the technical and selection committees and passed on to the natural science, social science and arts divisional committees for further consideration.

Natural science

The first meeting of the natural science divisional committee decided on the selection criteria for objects and records falling into the natural science category. These were:

  1. Objects should be small and in sample form.
  2. Pathogenic bacteria and objects likely to have an adverse effect on the contents of the capsule should be excluded.
  3. Records should show the progress of civilization in the fields of science and technology and should include statistical data.

Social science

The approach of the social science divisional committee was influenced by the knowledge that museums and libraries the world over contain comprehensive records of past and present civilizations. It seemed, therefore, that the most valuable social science contribution would be objects too humble to be included in museums or described in important books. In other words, things which most people take for granted but which could be of immense interest in 5,000 years time. Records, too, would focus on the realities of everyday life and behaviour, not excluding the social problems of the age.

The arts

The geographical, creative and historical scope of the arts made the task of the arts divisional committee a difficult one. Finally, because it was considered that the arts of other cultures were well documented and preserved, the divisional committee decided to place the main emphasis of this section on Japan. A thorough survey of the arts elsewhere in the world, ancient and modern, would be included in the form of written and film surveys but Japanese arts and crafts would be covered in great detail, including actual examples. Since the arts include many specialized disciplines, project groups were formed to work on the selection of items in the categories of literature, fine arts, theatre, music and motion pictures.

2nd selection committee meeting: defining the problems

When the three divisional committees came together again in September, 1968, further thought was given to the question of the durability of the items selected to go inside the capsule. The natural science divisional committee had decided that objects prone to deterioration should be avoided, whereas the social science divisional committee felt that some very common objects should not be ruled out even though their capacity to survive for 5,000 years was uncertain. The selection committee reached agreement that deterioration of some items in the capsule might have a damaging effect on the contents as a whole and so it was decided to proceed in the following way:

  1. To avoid inclusion of any dangerous items, such as pathogenic bacteria.
  2. To entrust to the technical committee research into storage techniques, including means of storing items in which some deterioration is inevitable.
  3. To ask the Time Capsule Research and Development Centre to conduct tests on various materials so as to establish their expected rate of deterioration over the passage of many years. Final decisions about the contents would be made only after this research had been completed.

Asking the public

A considerable number of suggestions had already been made by the committees and respondents to the questionnaire – too many, in fact, to be contained in the capsule. Yet, in November, 1968, the number of people invited to participate in selecting the contents was expanded still further, to include all the people of Japan. The November 1st, 1968, issue of The Mainichi Shimbun ( Mainichi Newspaper), a large-circulation daily newspaper, carried an announcement asking for suggestions as to items and records which might be included in the capsule. The suggestions could include anything within the spectrum of human experience.

A total of 116,324 suggestions were received and of these 15,016 were identical or similar to items already being considered by the selection committee; 7,652 suggestions were entirely new. Some ideas were imaginative, if impractical: An appendix, graffiti from a lavatory wall, ointment for athlete's foot, an umbilical cord. Many were excellent, usable suggestions (see Panel).

Suggestions from the sponsors

The final group of suggestions came from within the sponsoring companies, The Mainichi Newspapers and Matsushita Electric. These, and the best suggestions from the public were forwarded to the meeting of the selection committee held on December 7th, 1968.

Final selection

After much careful thought, adjustment and re-adjustment, the divisional committees proposed 2,068 items to the selection committee; 759 of these were objects and 1,309 were items to be recorded on tape, film and phonograph records. In order to find, out whether all of these items would fit into the capsule, the Reserch and Development Centre began an intensive programme of testing and measurement using actual objects and the proposed recording media. The work went on concurrently with the collection of the objects and preparation of the recorded materials for almost two years.

Items suggested by the people of Japan and accepted for inclusion in the capsule

Tapes and film of animals and birds in danger of extinction; men's and women's hair; human teeth; a glass eye; common salt; dried bonito fish (katsuobushi); a mosquito and a fly; fertilizer; agricultural chemicals; a gastrocamera; moxa; the method of brewing sake; an eye-test chart; mosquito-repellent incense; an official postcard; a New Year greeting card ; dice; an abacus; a jack-in-the-box ; a university entrance examination paper; puzzle rings; a passport; genuine and counterfeit ¥1,000 banknotes; a lottery ticket; an origami instruction book; handcuffs; birth and marriage registration forms; a Japanese flag; samples of Japanese clothing fabrics; utensils for the outdoor tea ceremony and for making green tea; table of incomes for different occupations; list of the 100 highest income earners; survey of attitudes regarding social position; rates of taxation in various countries; something to convey the atmosphere of a popular music concert, an amateur singing contest and a concert of classical music; a photographic cross-section of the world; paintings by children from around the world.

Collection of the contents

By February 28th, 1969, it had been decided that the 2,068 items were, in principle, suitable for inclusion in the capsule. A contents collection sub-committee was established for the acquisition of the objects and the commissioning of original works such as motion pictures, paintings and reports.

Since the contents of the capsule were to be displayed in the Matsushita Pavilion at Expo '70, it was necessary to acquire about 90% of the items before the end of 1969. Many had to be specially made. Others were, for various reasons, difficult to obtain. The time available for collection – ten months – was extremely short.

However, by the beginning of 1969, Time Capsule Expo '70 had been widely publicised in Japan and overseas and the sub-committee had no difficulty in getting the cooperation it needed to meet the collection deadline, Fortunately, reports coming in from the Research and Development Centre were positive. No insoluble storage problems were anticipated.

Collection policy

The executive committee decided it was necessary to have a clear-cut policy on the acquisition of objects for the capsule. This policy was divided into four parts:

  1. Objects related to contemporary life must be truly representative. They should be examples of items which are freely available to most people.
  2. To avoid the project being used for publicity purposes by manufactures or donors, and to retain control over the collection process, a current average price would be alloted for the purchase of each object.
  3. Where an object or commodity is available under several brand names or at different prices, the most popular type would be selected.
  4. Whenever possible, four idntical examples of each object would be acquired:two to be placed in the buried capsules, one for exhibition at Expo '70, and one for record purposes.

The purchase of pearl necklace illustrates how this policy was applied. Japan is one of the world's largest producers of cultured pearls and they are of very high quality; undoubtedly, a strand of the finest Japanese pearls would be considered a great treasure in the year 6970 AD. However, for most people, such pearls are a great treasure even now and to imply by including them in the capsule that fine pearls are worn by the average woman would be misleading. In order to avoid giving this impression, the collectors obtained the pearls at a popular department store, paying a modest price(¥1,000) for each of four artificial pearls necklaces.

Special cases

Not all the objects sought by the contents collection sub-committee were available on the open market. Super-high-pressure crystalline compounds such as borazon and certain synthetic fibres, for example, were obtained only through the goodwill of specialist suppliers. Traditional Japanese textiles are sold only in fixed lengths (tan) sufficient to make one kimono, and in the case of the finest textiles the price of such a length is very high. The very small pieces needed for the capsule were acquired through the generosity of a manufacturer in Kyoto who offered to make special lengths and donate them to the project. A prominent iron manufacturer offered two-thirds of a pencil-sized length of pure iron which was being stored in the archives of the company. This insignificant-looking piece of iron was valued at approzimately ¥1 million. It could not possibly have been acquired save through the generosity of this company.

When it came to items concerned with space exploration, a great deal of cooperation was requested and received from space technology institutes overseas, such as the Smithsonian Institute in the United States and the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Through these sources came a segment of the heat shield of the Apollo command module, Surveyor's computer panel, a replica of the pennant placed on the surface of the moon by Luna 2 and an important collection of photographs.

A message of peace

In some cases, the contents callection sub-committee was required to find items meeting an unspecific recommendation from the selection committee. One such case was a request "mementoes of the atomic bomb." During a preliminary visit to Hiroshima, it was learned that a victim of the bombing, Takahashi Akihiro, bore a ‘black nail’ on a finger of his right hand. This nail, damaged by flying glass in the explosion, falls off every three years and is replaced by a new nail as hard and as black as the one before. Members of the contents collection sub-committee visited Mr. Takahashi and suggested to him that the memory of the bomb which he carries in this unique, living way would be a profound message to the people of the future. Without hesitation, he offerd to give a discarded nail to the project.

Difficulties along the way

Preparation of the records – the films, tapes, documents and photograph – was a long and sometimes frustrating process. A stray dog was followed for a whole night until, at dawn, it finally obliged with an impressive howl – now recorded for posterity on magnetic tape. For the film "Expressions of the Year 1970" (A-8-4-1), members of the motion picture sub-committee spent three days viewing over one hundred reels of news filim. For new footage, cameramen roamed Japan's entertainment and shoppimg districts day and night.

The "Scientific Report for the Future" (N-24-2-1) was written under very trying circumstances. This was the time of the university campus struggles in Japan and the professor writing the report had to take sanctuary in a hospital bed in order to complete it in peace. On one occasion, discussions relating to medical and biological specimens were held in a laboratory completely surrounded by militant students.

The final gathering

At the end of 1970, when the work of collection was nearing completion, the Research and Development Centre informed the executive committee that unfilled space was still available in the capsule. This proved to be sufficient space for twelve additional items. When all were gathered together and given their final classification the new total came to 2,098 objects and records.

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The contents of this site are excerpted from THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF TIME CAPSULE EXPO'70(March 1975). Please note that company and organization names may differ from those of the current ones.

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