Grade 7 students from Paul William Kaeser (PWK) high school in Fort Smith were given a rare glimpse into what life could have been like for them in 1998 and, for the most part, they found it pretty funny.
Heritage Week took on a personal meaning for the Fort Smith students last week when they opened two time capsules at the Northern Life Museum and Cultural Centre packaged 16 years ago.
“My dad wears one of those,” one student exclaimed about the faded jean jackets pictured on several 1998 pop culture magazine covers found in the time capsule.
“What are pogs?” another student asked, laughing with the rest of the class when museum director Mathieu Doucet described the collectable disc game popularized in the 1990s.
“They were super hooked in,” museum administrator Diane Seals shared with The Journal after the first capsule was opened on Monday last week.
Seals said the time capsules were actually addressed to the Grade 6 class of 2013, but they had been buried in the museum’s storage room and forgotten about until she recently unearthed them. She also found one addressed to Grade 6 students in 2018.
Despite it being a year late for the 2013 capsules, the museum decided to open the capsules with the Grade 7 class, who would have had the honour last year, as a part of Heritage Week in the NWT.
Each item was carefully removed from the capsule and held up by Doucet for the students to see and discuss. Among the items discovered was a Nintendo Power magazine, hockey cards, a floppy disk with photos and cassettes with music playlists.
Seals said a challenge now is finding the older technology to be able to access the data on the floppy disk and cassettes, a problem that likely didn’t cross the minds of students in 1998.
“Within 15 years we are already struggling to figure out old technology, which is crazy,” she said. “We talked about that. The students want to make a time capsule now, so what kinds of things would you put in given the fact that within 15 years technology is already outdated? Would you put in a USB clip of digital stuff or would you just put photos in? It’s interesting.”
Each student was also able to open a letter written to them by one of the 1998 Grade 6 students.
“It’s really interesting, especially the letters,” said Krizzia Concepcion.
Going off the reactions she saw, Seals said Grade 6 is an ideal age to appreciate the value of a time capsule and what it means to cultural heritage.
“They’re still kid enough to know what the games are, yet they’re old enough to understand what’s going on in the world and the current events. It’s a nice balance,” she said.
The activity hopefully will spark students’ interest in the value of learning about their past, Doucet said.
“You can go look at the history books and see what was happening here in 1998 – we all know the benefit of knowing history – but having that exchange from a student your age that might have the same perspective as you is a connection that really makes it enjoyable and personal,” he said.
The museum hosted the Grade 7 class twice during Heritage Week, opening one capsule each day and taking the time to discuss what was happening in 1998 and how it relates to our present.
“Doing a time capsule isn’t going to solve history or it’s not going to make pivotal change, but it’s small and fun activities that create a positive reinforcement towards the importance of history and heritage and brings them into the museum,” Doucet said.