The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 23, June 10, 2007, Article 21


Dick Johnson writes: "One of the strongest characteristics of coins 
and medals are their ability to memorialize or commemorate an event, 
or more often, an anniversary. That fact plus their inherent longevity 
make them ideal to document people and events for recorded history.

"Well-intentioned citizens here in my hometown, Torrington Connecticut, 
are burying a time capsule this Sunday (June 10, 2007). They are not 
burying it in the ground; instead they are drilling a hole in a brick 
wall, placing the metal canister inside, and covering up the hole 
with a plaque.

"They are honoring the centennial of a local park. Great community 
service act! However time capsules are notoriously inefficient as 
conveyers of cultural knowledge from one generation to another. 
All time capsules are intended to speak to future intelligent 
beings, somewhat like SETI is attempting to speak to intelligent 
beings on other planets.

"Instead of entombing documents, however -- along with photos, 
published data, coins, tokens, other artifacts, and whatever else 
-- a far more efficient method would be to honor Coe Park Centennial 
by issuing an attractive medal to honor the event.

"We have coins and medals that reveal what Julius Caesar or Cleopatra 
really looked like that are two millennia old (with prospects of 
lasting another two to ten millennia). No other artifacts survive 
the vicissitudes of time like these small metal objects. No books, 
no buildings, no paintings, no other recorded media last great periods 
of time like coins and medals do. They are the ideal media to talk to 
future generations -- at all times in the future -- despite any 
natural or manmade catastrophes along the way.

"Torrington is in the Naugatuck Valley, home of the metalworking 
industry in America for 150 years. Waterbury's Scovill, notably, 
was the area's largest such firm. It was quite active in manufacturing 
medals to commemorate anniversary events in the 19th and early 
20th centuries.

"Scovill struck more than 275 medals for such events as Ice Carnivals 
in St. Paul and Montreal, World's Fairs in Philadelphia (1876), 
Chicago (1893 and 1933), and St. Louis (1904); national events such 
as the laying of the Atlantic Cable (1856), Siege of Boston and Bunker 
Hill Revolutionary War centennials, state and city functions in 
Pennsylvania, Danbury, Detroit, Louisville, Pittsburgh and the 
Connecticut Tercentenary in 1935. The U.S. government had the firm 
strike medals for the U.S. Capitol, the Post Office and Patent 
Office centennials.

"Scovill's own 1902 Centennial Medal will speak to intelligent 
beings perhaps even 10,000 years from now. Along with, I venture 
to say, the Columbian Exposition Medal of 1893, of which the firm 
struck over 23,000 examples. The later were widely distributed 
all over the world to exhibitors of the Chicago World's Fair of 
that period.

"Future beings, even it they don't read English (could it ever be 
a dead language?), will view Columbus on the award medal, and the 
two Scovill founders on their centennial medal. Something important 
happened for citizens of that era to create these miniature art 
works that have lasted for thousands of years.

"The International Time Capsule Society estimates over half of all 
time capsules are lost or forgotten. And half of those retrieved 
often reveal the damage of time. Moisture is the greatest enemy to 
penetrate the intended casket and the contents are either a moldy, 
soggy mass or destroyed in total. It is not ironic that coins and 
medals survive any such deterioration.

"Don't hide your event in a time capsule. Instead, issue a medal. 
It will memorialize the honor you wish to bestow in a far more 
appealing and permanent way. It won't be hidden in the ground -- 
or in the case of Coe Park -- in the wall. And live beings can 
view it, appreciate it, and learn of the event at any time ... 
for a very long time."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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