It’s not what you find. It’s what you find out.

Opening a new Time Capsule can be exhilarating or it can be a little devastating.  An unopened Time Capsule could contain a pop culture treasure (see previous blog posts for examples) or, more realistically, it could simply be bursting with catalogues, circulars, and exhibition announcements addressed to the Factory.  A Time Capsule like the latter doesn’t make for very exciting stories at dinner parties, but it does make for valuable contextual material for researchers or even those with the most casual interest.

Archeologists have a saying—and this could just be to reassure one another that their grant money wasn’t a colossal waste—that it’s not what you find, it’s what you find out.  Sure, you spent three hours this afternoon digging meticulously to bedrock and all you found was three bags worth of roughly broken pottery (no golden frogs, no jewelry, no worked shell!), but what does this tell you?  What does this mean about the people who lived in this location?  What doesn’t this mean for the people who lived there?  Does this support your research query, or could this bring up an entirely unexplored thought?

Time Capsule 350 contained a multitude of invitations and exhibition announcements for events occurring in November of 1983 at the Limelight in New York, and it took me the better part of a week and a visit to Wikipedia to realize that this was when the Limelight actually opened.  Included in TC 350 was also a press kit from the firm of Ari Bahat, the architect responsible for the redesign of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Union, the church housing the Limelight.  None of these invitations or supplemental material was exactly as staggering as finding a letter from Truman Capote, but what did the opening of the Limelight mean for New York’s nightlife?  The Limelight’s undeniably interesting future—as a home for club drug use, scandal, and now, of all things, a market!—could only, in November of 1983, be guessed at.  The announcements and invitations within TC 350 gave me scarcely a glimpse of what was ahead for the Limelight, but given the fanfare for the opening alone, I couldn’t help but infer that the Limelight would grow to be something remarkable.

The peripheral material (the direct mail, the infinite issues of the New York Post, the Christie’s catalogues, even the most inexplicable of ephemera) within a Time Capsule has the potential to be as captivating as the most remarkable of finds.  It’s what you find out when you read between the lines.  It’s what you find out when you look beyond.

Elaina Vitale

Warhol Time Capsules Project cataloger