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Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum mounts time capsule to be opened in 2050

The time capsule is encased in an old combustion engine and contains mementos of the pandemic and single use plastic objects

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva and the Climate Centre, which helps the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement worldwide address the humanitarian impacts of climate change, have collaborated for the first time to create a time capsule, to be opened in 2050.

Displayed in the museum’s atrium, the time capsule has been encased in a wall-mounted sculpture made from an old combustion engine by Los Angeles-based United Environment Architecture.

The museum said the time capsule – and what could be an outdated piece of technology by 2050 – serves as an entry point for activities around ‘long-termism’ the evolution of humanitarianism, climate and environmental stewardship, and collective action.

It fits in with its mission to promote understanding of the history, current events and challenges of humanitarian aid.

“[This is a] sculpture full of hopes and dreams that raises questions on how to become good ancestors,” the museum said.

The time capsule contains contributions collected in 2020 containing messages from 50 people from every continent except Antarctica. It includes mementos from lockdowns and quarantines around the world, newspaper cuttings, cartoons, art, letters and poems. It also contains single use plastic items in the hope that they too will be obsolete when the capsule is opened.

“When the time capsule is opened in 2050, the part of a combustion engine that it is made out of may be obsolete,” the museum said. “Along with the hopes and dreams it contains, the time capsule itself raises questions of recycling, long-termism, the changing face of humanitarian work, environmental stewardship and collective action.”


The museum’s atrium where the time capsule is displayed

Long-termism, says Rebeka Ryvola de Kremer, Learning Advisor Climate Centre, Washington, DC, is a critical concept for work at the intersection of humanitarian and climate action.

“It has to do with a shift away from short-term, election-cycle decision-making towards longer time-horizons, and the Climate Centre has  been championing it since at least 2019, in collaboration with EIT Climate-KIC and Boston University,” she said.

“In many industrialised societies this kind of thinking is all but non-existent, while elsewhere we see that it is already deeply embedded in storytelling, for example, and permeates the treatment of the environment, elders, and unborn generations.”

By using the capsule as a focal point the hope is to bring this critical and important outlook to a broader audience, with the aim of expanding long-term thinking and practice in society.

The idea for the time capsule developed during the height of the Covid pandemic in 2020 through online conversations with people from the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, climate activists, and other thinkers.

Representation of experiences

The museum’s collection includes more than 10,000 posters

“’What if we gathered a representation of experiences, ideas, and wishes from this strange year as a way of sparking long-term thinking and also connecting more tangibly with the future?’ we asked ourselves,” said Ryvola de Kremer.

The two organisations were able to get funding from EIT Climate-KIC and partners United Environment Architecture proposed a time capsule made from old internal combustion engines to represent technology that is being faded out, as well as recycling and repurposing.

Plaque explaining ideas behind the project

A plaque also accompanies the capsule explaining the ideas behind it. “[This] will offer museum visitors prompts for their own contemplations on what it means to be a good ancestor for future generations,” says Ryvola de Kremer.

“Our hope is that this sculpture will inspire people to think beyond the pandemic and its aftermath, and how this moment – with all our unique skill-sets and growing collective energy – can be harnessed to change the course of humanity.”

The museum was established in 1988 and has a wide collection of objects and gifts from international societies as well as more than 10,000 posters documenting the work of the Movement from the late 19th century to the present.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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