Time capsules are part of a beloved tradition dating back thousands of years. Designed to connect the past to present civilizations, they come in many shapes and forms. They can range from planned, physical objects filled with historically significant items or data from the time period of its creation (such as the Golden Record I and II on the Voyager spacecraft) to unintentional preservations of times past (such as the city of Pompeii). They are fragmented messages or echoes from the past that call out to the hearts of future generations. Shrouded in mystery and enticing to the most avid of adventure seekers, there’s an undeniable draw to unearthing one of these lost treasures or missing links.
The intriguing lore of secret time capsules inspired French photographer, filmmaker, and YouTuber Mathieu Stern to discover a time capsule, hidden in the basement of his old family home. The intricately designed antique box, which dated back to the year 1900, contained some particularly charming items—including a paper doll, coins, a compass, a sea shell, and a letter—that were all precious remnants belonging to a young girl of the 1900s. The box also included something particularly fascinating and mesmerizing to Stern: two glass plate negatives. Hot on the trail of unlocking this mystery, Stern decided to develop them utilizing an old photographic printing method known as cyanotype.
Stern carefully executes this vintage photography project with gentle handling of the prints and some patience. And just what did the images reveal? The beloved pets of the little girl, including a particularly faithful looking feline. Obviously not wanting her companions to be forgotten, they were included with the girl's most precious keepsakes. And thanks to the patience of Stern, the message of love and tenderness left by the little girl, in a small metal box, won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Scroll down to watch Stern's painstaking process to unearth these cat photos from 120 years ago.