Oregon Historical Society Time Capsule

Inspired by my friend Esther’s recent adventure, I played tourist in Portland. When I move to a new city, I found the quickest way to get to know the city is to attend Meetup groups. This time around, I signed up for a group with fellow East Coasters. The host proposed an event during the day/lunch hour when a time capsule from 1984 would be unveiled by the Oregon Historical Society. I was uber excited about it because I was born that year and could see items from my birth year.

Pioneer Square was the location, a local tourist destination and affectionately known as “Portland’s Living Room”. It’s a public meeting place constructed in red bricks and occupies an entire city block. Upon construction 30 years ago, the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) buried a time capsule with items that symbolized Portland at the time.


Among the contents were cassette tapes (Madonna!), Nike sneakers, a boombox, a Portland parking meter head, local wines and beers, 1984 currency, Portland restaurant menus, newspapers, TriMet (public transit) tickets and booklets, phone books, maps, videotapes, utility and food bills for a family of four, 1980’s attire and photos.



The time capsule was opened in front of a crowd of tourists, nearby employees on their break, school children on field trips, and of course, randoms like me. While watching the kids ooh and ahh at the contents, viewers walked around a table with the contents on display. Not many were in perfect condition (paper ended up pretty damaged) and the OHS volunteers were scrambling to put things out without damaging the contents further. The school children were asking their teachers what phonebooks were and why we listened to music on such big music players like boomboxes. It was at that moment I really felt my age. There was a suggestion box for recommendations on what to bury that reflected times today. Only one thing came to mind… a smartphone. Everything is in those: apps, music, photos, video. Our entire lives really. I wondered if kids in 30 years would know what to do with the smartphones of today. I sat and daydreamed on the bricks for a few more minutes then headed home.



  1. you witnessed the opening of a time capsule?! WAHHH that is SOOO COOL i wish i could’ve been there!! that’d be so neat to see them pull out each object one by one. how awesome is that…! thanks for sharing this adventure!


  2. Wow – that sounds so much fun!! Every city should do something like this! I usually only see it in movies when people open their own time capsule that they buried but for a city to come together to share something like this is awesome! Haha i miss those boom boxes! They were pretty cool and hip back then 😉


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