A new, national project is putting a digital-age twist on an old idea: the time capsule.

This year, through the help of Messages to the Future, a nonprofit organization formed to implement the project, students will be preserving their memories not in a box in the ground, but in cyberspace.

“This project will give tens of thousands of young people all across America the opportunity to preserve their feelings and their thoughts, to document their experiences, their expectations at this very special point in time—the end of a century and the beginning of a millennium,” said the project’s founder, Stephen Van Hecke.

Van Hecke’s National Internet Time Capsule Science Project is aimed at this year’s high school seniors—the Class of 2000.

Participating students will create a cyber time capsule to reflect and capture what life was like in the last year of 20th century.

Beginning in September, the project’s host web site, which was funded and designed by AT&T WorldNet, will provide the necessary interactive software to any high school that wishes to participate. Students will then create their own “Messages to the Future” web sites, using text, sound, video, and photographs to preserve their memories and thoughts.

In their text messages, students will be asked to submit letters and essays describing themselves, their families, or the town they live in. They can reflect on what life is like now and the issues of the day and also predict what life will be like by the end of the next century and what issues will be important then.

Students also can include scanned newspaper stories and editorials, magazine covers, movie tickets, playbills, and invitations.

If they don’t want to write down their thoughts, students can record or videotape them for their school’s time capsule web site. They can record interviews with their parents or grandparents, classmates, or community leaders.

Popular songs, TV shows, and movies also can be put on the web site if students have the necessary equipment on hand to get them online.

Digital and traditional photographs can be added to the school’s time capsule as well.

When high schools sign up to participate in the project, an administrative and faculty advisor will join a group of seniors on a Graduates 2000 Committee.

The student committee members will be involved in the technical aspects of building the school’s web site and later uploading the materials submitted by their classmates.

Messages to the Future will establish eMail internet links between each participating school, so committees around the country will be able to interact and share ideas with each other.

Each school’s web site also will have a hyperlink to all other participating schools.

The project begins with a “Best Cover Web Page” contest, allowing any senior to submit one page that best depicts the essence of his or her high school and community.

Submissions for time capsule entries can be collected throughout the year until next spring, just before graduation, when the Graduates 2000 Committee goes to work uploading the materials onto the web site.

The web sites will be linked together to create a permanent National Interactive Library.

Van Hecke hopes to drum up enough corporate support to make the collection permanent and has grand plans of officially dedicating the interactive library at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

High schools interested in participating in the project are encouraged to visit the Messages to the Future web site.

Messages to the Future