Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service


Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.


Millennium Messages

Mankind's fascination with the idea of discovering lost worlds continues to flourish.

Since early in this century, we have buried relics of our civilization for future
inhabitants of earth to uncover and look upon with awe. Millennium Messages
developed at the Heckscher Museum of Art with guest curator Barbara Coller, features the work of 28 major artists, architects, and designers who have been invited to create time capsules filled with existing artifacts or specially made ones that convey 20th-century achievements, values, or issues. In creating the time capsules, the artists and designers serve as spokes-persons for our age.

The first known time capsule in the United States was buried on the site of the 1939 World's Fair, and was designed to last 5,000 years. It contained articles of common use such as a slide rule and a woman's hat. It also held messages from contemporary thinkers such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann, the latter of whom wrote: "The hopes we center on you, citizens of the future, are in no way exaggerated. In broad outline, you will actually resemble us very much as we resemble those who lived a thousand, or five thousand, years ago. Among you too the spirit will fare badly—it should never fare too well on this earth, otherwise men would need it no longer."

Thus the concept of the time capsule was to do more than capture our technological advances; it also was to preserve humankind's Zeitgeist at mid-century in western civilization. At the 1964 World's Fair, Time Capsule II was buried near the site of the first capsule. It contained credit cards, a bikini, contact lenses, a Beatles record, birth control pills, a heat shield from Apollo 7,
and a plastic heart valve. It told of everyday life during the years since the
first capsule was created.

Millennium Messages marked the year 2000 and its time capsules encompass a new genre wherein participating artists reflected on the past and communicated with the future through their art medium.

Artists participating in the show included: Benny Andrews and Nene Humphrey, Arman, Barton Lidice Benes, Constantin Boym and Laurene Leon Boym, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Petah Coyne, Milton Glaser, Leon Golub, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Donald Lipski, Hung Liu, Karim Rashid, Eric Rhein, Faith Ringgold, Karen Shaw, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Neal Ambrose Smith, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Tucker Viemeister, Massimo and Lella Vignelli, Carrie Mae Weems, and Lawrence Weiner.

This Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service exhibition toured from 1999-2001.



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