WU announces new time capsule to be placed in Athletic Complex addition

Jon Wingens | Contributing Reporter

After uncovering a time capsule placed in the original Athletic Complex nearly 113 years ago, Washington University announced that it would place a time capsule in the cornerstone of the new addition to the Athletic Complex.

With construction on the expansion set to be done by fall of 2016, the capsule will remain a part of the expansion for 50 years until it is set to be opened in 2066.

A time capsule, placed on April 2, 2011, sits on the South 40 between Umrath and South 40 House. It will be opened again in 2061 at the 50th reunion of the Class of 2011.Jonathan Yue | Student Life

A time capsule, placed on April 2, 2011, sits on the South 40 between Umrath and South 40 House. It will be opened again in 2061 at the 50th reunion of the Class of 2011.

The time capsule will be modeled after the uncovered time capsule, but with structural improvements. The original box was made of a weakly bound copper that allowed water to leak through and ruin many of the contents left inside. The only documents recovered were a map of campus and a few pages from the 1901-1903 course catalog.

University Archivist Sonya Rooney pointed out that, despite only finding a few of the items originally placed in it, they did at least recover the physical box itself from the cornerstone where it was placed.

Fortunately, those who buried the original time capsule had the foresight to keep duplicate copies of everything that went into the container in the University Archives.

University Archives has an exhibit of items from the cornerstone entitled, “A Snapshot in History: WU Athletics and a New Campus, 1900-1915,” that sits on display in Olin Library’s Grand Staircase Lobby. Among the artifacts included in the display is a newspaper article forecasting the Washington University football team’s season, as well as a track uniform from the 1910 cycle.

In an effort to ensure that the items in the newest capsule withstand the test of time, the University is taking a number of precautions with the structure of the box that’s buried.

According to Rooney, the box itself is from Heritage Time Capsules, a specialized company based out of Buffalo, N.Y. She explained that it is well equipped to deal with any kind of unforeseen circumstances.

“[The time capsule will] withstand large temperature fluctuations [and has] excellent strength and impact characteristics,” Rooney said.

The University has already determined many of the items that they would like to place in the box as representatives to a future generation of the school in 2015. Among these are a campus map, the most recent issue of Student Life and a piece of the Francis Gymnasium floor.

Perhaps what will most differentiate this capsule from all of its predecessors is its utilization of technology. The University plans to leave a flash drive and an iPad loaded with information in the building’s cornerstone through which future students may be able to get a glimpse of the past.

“We got excited thinking that we could now put so much more stuff in there. For example, if we wanted to put a photo of every single Wash. U. student, we could do that all on one little device,” Justin Carroll, associate vice chancellor and dean of students, said.

Carroll did, however, express concern about whether or not Washington University students will even be able to use the dated technology of today when the capsule is opened.

“It would be like going to a foreign country and trying to plug something in and finding out that the plug is different,” Carroll said.

To deal with such an issue, the box will come with a charger for the iPad, a pair of headphones and a complete set of instructions for how to operate the outmoded device.

Students, faculty and others associated with Washington University were also asked to submit their own ideas for what should be placed in the time capsule. One of the submissions will be chosen in mid-October.

With a few exceptions for items that will either not last 50 years or compromise the integrity of the other objects in the box, the contest was open to nearly any submission.

Although the contest was open to a wide range of submissions, Carroll said the administration would prefer items that that capture the current student experience.

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