From the reverent and romantic, to the mundane and even sardonic, the artifacts in the Evanston History Center’s 2020 Time Capsule capture the essence of a challenging year. A curated selection of the items collected earlier this year are on temporary display before being packed up in a trunk for the next decade.
Eden Juron Pearlman, the Executive Director for the History Center, said the trunk will be on exhibit with a sign that says, “Open in January 2031.” She said the sign will excite curiosity and added, “We want to make sure this one is opened. You’d be surprised how many time capsules are created and forgotten.”
The cloth mask is the quintessential artifact of 2020, and the History Center received several. There is also a Christmas tree ornament with a masked Santa Claus.
The metal door pull with protruding finger for touch-free elevator or doorbell operation is less prevalent but also useful for protecting the user from germs. If Instagram or a comparable platform is around in the 2050s, then children of the 2020s may well share pictures of the oddly shaped object with the question, “Who remembers these?” just like children of the 1970s find humor in pictures of cassette players or typewriters today.
One woman, a nurse and an activist, told the story of her year in six photo books, each with a different lens. She highlighted the role of health care workers, the Black Lives Matter Protests, memories of Hecky Powell, and reparations for African American Evanstonians. Her sister donated a Black Lives Matter sign and a scrapbook with photos and printouts of news stories covering several protests in which she had participated.
A young couple submitted a picture of themselves beneath a banner proclaiming, “Not Married,” taken on what would have been their wedding day in May 2020. A July 2020 photo shows the newlyweds emerging from a church with the note, “Maggie rents a dress, because her wedding dress is locked up at a bridal shop that is closed.”
Bumper stickers, buttons, and other items recall the 2020 election season. The Evanston chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority shared materials from its get-out-the-vote campaign, highlighting the candidacy of AKA member Vice President Kamala Harris.
A poster depicts another effort to get out the vote with the Postcards to Swing States campaign. Many Evanstonians participated in writing and mailing thousands of postcards to registered voters in battleground states.
Questions arise: How will these artifacts appear to viewers in 2031? Will Citizens for a Greener Evanston’s EcoHub map, tracking progress toward the City’s future climate action goals, be impressive or quaint? How much will the City have achieved with regard to reparations?
Will the dental practice and accounting firm, on whose scratchpads the dentist’s wife planned daily menus, still operate under the same names, and have offices in Evanston? Will the 2020 newlyweds bring their children to the History Center for the opening of the time capsule?
Only time will tell. In the meantime, “Capturing History: Evanston 2020” will be on display until the end of April and again sometime in 2031.