Census ‘time capsules’ are a big hit in Ireland, but it’s too late for the 2023 New Zealand census
Stats NZ says that although next year’s census will not include a “time capsule” option, it is not out of the question for future censuses.
This follows the concept’s popularity overseas; Ireland takes its 2022 census on Sunday and, for the first time, has included a blank space for people to leave messages for future generations.
This is, according to the Central Statistics Office of Ireland, a world first.
The section is voluntary and census records will not be unsealed for 100 years, but many Irish residents have shared their time capsule posts on social media.
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It’s a diverse mix. Some people opted for humor, recording information such as the price of a beer at the moment. Someone drew a sketch of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at this year’s Oscars.
Another had a cheeky request: “Can you check if my lotto numbers have arrived yet!!! »
Others were more heartfelt, describing much-loved pets or the death of family members.
“Tonight, as we count those in our home and family, we think so much of our beloved little girl,” one person wrote in a Time Capsule post shared on Twitter.
“She was tragically taken from us 5 years ago, just before her 4th birthday in a car accident… She was never counted in a census, so we are so relieved to be able to mention her here.”
Chris Szekely, head librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, said it was an interesting twist on how people have recorded their lives for posterity.
“The time capsule concept at the time was the school’s football boots and teddy bears, anything of interest to the community, buried under a statue that could be unearthed in 100 years,” he said. declared.
“This concept is new to me and puts it in quite a different direction.”
Szekely said that while there has been a big increase in people recording their lives, they often don’t do so with future generations in mind.
“When we as individuals are asked to provide a memorial or a record of how we saw things at some point, and reflect on it, that’s very deliberate and quite different from social media , which are usually a business of the moment.”
Census communications manager Tracy Dillimore said Stats NZ was aware of the addition to the Irish census, but it was too late to implement something similar for the upcoming New Zealand census .
“The content of the next census was finalized last year, after consultation with a range of stakeholders,” Dillimore said.
“The lead time to allow for testing and preparation for any changes means that we will not be able to accommodate a similar initiative for the 2023 census.”
Dillimore said Kiwi enumerators were “closely linked” to their counterparts in other jurisdictions and would learn from overseas “to inform future censuses in Aotearoa New Zealand”.
“Any decision on content changes for future censuses would be consulted with the public, Maori and government agencies.”
While social media has led to an increase in record keeping, the concept of describing our daily lives is not new, and the Turnbull Library holds a substantial collection of diaries dating back to the 1800s.
“They often focus on everyday life, family ties, networks, that kind of stuff,” Szekely said. “We have a lot of them at the Turnbull Library, and they’re in great use.”
Private records were often the most telling, he added.
“Some of today’s richest research papers come from personal accounts that people didn’t create for public consumption.”
Szekely said it was too early to comment on the potential research value of census time capsules, but it was worth taking the opportunity if it was available.
“It would be very interesting to see what New Zealanders would record and say about themselves.”