If you could communicate with Angelenos in 2069, what exactly would you want to show and tell them? Would you detail what present-day Downtown Los Angeles looks like? Would you include artifacts or articles that represent Downtown’s eclectic culture?
That topic is on the front burner as a time capsule is about to be buried in Downtown, and local organizers are seeking submissions from the public for what to include. It is a sort of bookend to a 61-year-old time capsule unearthed last July during the renovation and modernization of the Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial. In December, the waterfall at the site was turned on for the first time in 42 years.
The Los Angeles County Arts Commission is accepting submission ideas through May 6.
“I think tapping people’s really genuine connection to the subject matter will be really interesting,” said Kristen Sakoda, executive director of the Arts Commission. “People can be as creative and poignant as they like, but for us, the big thing we are interested in is a reflection and their views of themselves, their culture and this environment.”
The Arts Commission began accepting submissions for the new time capsule in March, and Sakoda said items such as poems and photographs have already been proffered. She said that there is no “perfect submission,” and things that capture a personal idea of Los Angeles are encouraged. However, she didn’t rule out including elements as mundane as a city council agenda.
“I kind of come from the school of thought of, the personal is the political and they are all interconnected,” Sakoda said. “The things that speak to me are the things that really resonated with others. Seeing something like a city council agenda could actually be really interesting 50 years from now.”
The monument, located at 451 N. Hill St., on a stretch connecting Chinatown and the Civic Center, was completed in 1957 and dedicated on July 3, 1958. It was built to commemorate the Mormon Battalion and the New York Volunteer American military forces that first raised the United States flag in the recently acquired California territory nearly 110 years prior.
The county and the city spent a combined $4.6 million to restore the monument, including upgrading the mechanics of the 80-foot long water feature. The original had been shut off in 1977 due to a drought, and in ensuing decades it fell into a state of disrepair.
When the work on the monument began, the Arts Commission was aware of the time capsule. Items were buried in a copper box with a tight seal. Individual documents were laminated and there are plans to digitize the items for online viewing.
After removing the capsule and examining its contents, the staff at the Arts Commission noted how well preserved the documents were, despite it being 61 years after the box was placed at the base of the monument’s flagpole.
A total of 41 items were placed in the time capsule, including historical images of the memorial, a dedication ceremony program and a copy of the speech given at the original dedication by County Supervisor John Anson Ford.
The capsule also included a 45-page typed manuscript by May Belle Davis, who for 25 years had pushed for the memorial’s construction.
The majority of the items in the capsule were related to city and county government. That included the 1959 preliminary county budget, the 1959 Department of Water and Power Annual Report, and the 1959 city budget. Also in the capsule were copies of the Los Angeles Times, and the now-defunct Los Angeles Examiner and Herald Express.
Additionally, the capsule included documents related to the region, including a brochure titled “The Story of Los Angeles is the Struggle for Water and Power,” and a pamphlet on California’s Gold Rush era called “The Origins and Purposes of the Native sons and Native Daughter of the Golden West.”
Those whose items are selected for the next time capsule will be notified by May 31. Sadoka said she doesn’t yet have a firm idea of how many items will be included, as it depends on what is submitted.
The elements will be placed in the time capsule in June, in preparation for a July 3 ceremony. The date is significant because it will be exactly 61 years after the monument was commemorated.
Sakoda said that there is no set plan as to when the new capsule will be opened, but using the removal of the old capsule could be a model. In that case, 50 or 60 years is not out of the question.
Submission guidelines, including size restrictions and acceptable items, are at lacountyarts.org/experiences/fort-moore-pioneer-monument.