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Introduction Procedure List of Contents Appendices Photo/Map Sitemap History

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Overall Policy and Organisation

The birth of the project

The idea of putting together a time capsule in celebration of Expo '70 was first raised by The Mainichi Newspapers in May 1967. Expo '70 was to be one of the greatest international events held on Japanese soil and something special was required in the way of a lasting monument: A time capsule, which would present the image of the people, art, science and lifestyle of 1970, as well as the Exposition itself, to the people of the future seemed an ideal choice.

By happy coincidence, at the time when The Mainichi Newspapers was considering the Expo '70 project, Matsushita Electric Industrial Company was also considering a suitable project for its 50th anniversary in 1968. Mainichi invited Matsushita to join in the time capsule project and agreement was made in December, 1967. Time Capsule Expo '70 was announced officially on January 8th, 1968.

The opening date

One of the first decisions which had to be made was fundamental to almost every aspect of the development of the capsule, namely: "How long will the capsule and its contents be required to last ?" The capsule's survival would depend on many factors beyond the sponsors' control but, setting aside any natural or manmade disasters that might befall it, an expected time-span had to be decided upon and some kind of instructions laid down.

Initial suggestions from the preparatory committee were 1,000, 3,000 and 5,000 years. A span of 1,000 years was rejected on the grounds that a considerable number of modern artefacts might survive for that length of time without benefit of any deliberate preservation techniques. The wooden storehouse named the Shosoin, which is in the grounds of Todaiji temple in Nara, has survived since 756 AD. Its original contents, including silk screens, inlaid boxes, musical instruments, textiles and manuscripts, to name only the more delicate items, are in a remarkable state of natural preservation.

The preparatory committee decided to look ahead to a time so remote that only a precious few objects made in 1970 of the most durable materials would have a chance of natural survival. The choice of 5,000 years had further significance : In 6970, the year 1970 AD would stand at an intermediate point between present time and the very beginnings of recorded history.

The dual-capsule concept

By stretching the time-span to what is, perhaps, the limit, given the state of present technology, the capsule project evolved into a major exercise, more ambitious than any similar project that had gone before. While considering the technological challenge, the committee came to realise that the preservation techniques were more than just a process in the preparation of the capsule, they were a legacy in themselves ; a legacy that would be of immense scientific interest to future generations.

This led the preparatory committee to make a startling suggestion : If we are determined that the time capsule will survive, why not have two capsules? It was agreed that one capsule should be left undisturbed for 5,000 years and another – which would act as a control – should be periodically unearthed, inspected and re-buried, its contents having been re-treated as necessary using the latest preservation techniques. This dual-capsule decision was the culmination of the basic planning phase and the signal to begin work on the numerous projects that would culminate in Time Capsule Expo '70.

Formation of the committees

Two main committees were formed : A technical committee made up of 23 Ieading Japanese scientists and academics, and a selection committee made up of 27 experts in the sciences, social studies and arts. Sub-committees were set up to deal with factors beyond the scope of the main committees. An executive committee would co-ordinate the activities of all these committees from the offices of Mainichi and Matsushita in Osaka. A Time Capsule Research and Development Centre at Matsushita head office would advise on the technological and scientific aspects of the capsule and its contents throughout the project. By February 28th, 1968 – just two months after the project had been announced – basic plans for the organisation of the project were complete.

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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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