Two time capsules sealed a half-century ago were opened
during homecoming last weekend, and the contents appeared rather
mundane in my opinion.
I have been a part of five time capsule projects over the
years and have tried to fill them with historic artifacts of
the era, sort of a snapshot in time of the fads and trends from
that year. But NIU archivist Cindy Ditzler pointed out that there
are two types of capsules one commemorating the construction
of a new building and the other marking a special event such
as a Centennial or Bicentennial.
Cindy said there were two items people found intriguing
among the dozens of paper products inside the Douglas Hall capsule:
one was the 1962 dorm cafeteria menu, with food choices students
would probably turn up their noses at today; the other showed
the cost of tuition, board and room for the 1962-63 school year
a paltry $1,200. Younger alums can probably calculate
if the rate of inflation over 56 years would add up to college
Most of the other contents were the kind of documents you
would expect: a college catalog, handbooks about housing and
conduct, budgets, a city map, dorm floor plan, construction photos,
etc. Items from the other capsule, Stevens Building, were similar.
I was upset to find out they included three newspapers,
but no Daily Chronicle. I can understand issues of the Northern
Star, but why would the Rockford Morning Star and Bloomington
Pantograph take precedence over the local newspaper? Could some
college administrator have had issues with the Chronicle? I was
on the Star staff at that time and if any newspaper would have
been excluded for its
Examining the contents of the Douglas Hall time capsule
are NIU archivist Cindy Ditzier and University Libraries Dean
Fred Barnhart. (Photo by Annie Oelschlager)
NIU archivist Cindy Ditzier holds the copper box time
capsule from Douglas Hall before its opening last weekend. (NIU
critical reporting on the administration it would have been the
Star. Editors at the time like Joe Distelheim and Al Erisman
really knew how to get under the skin of university officials.
Cindy said they would like to display the contents of the
copper box from Douglas Hall in one of the glass cases on the
first floor of the Founders Memorial Library, then retain them
in the university archives. Disposition of the Stevens Buildingl
capsules contents has not been decided.
I might suggest in the future that the official time capsule
of documents be placed in a dorm at its opening, then a year
later let the students who reside there assemble a collection
of their choices to be placed alongside the original container.
If there was a student time capsule placed in Neptune Hall
back in the late 1950s, I can just imagine what might be included:
a package of NoDoz pills used for staying awake while cramming
for final exams, a beer glass from McCabes Tavern, a pack
of Camels, an Elvis Presley vinyl record, tickets and a list
of movies for the DuVal Drive-in, a Pizza Villa menu and maybe
a stolen DeKalb Ag winged ear field sign. I could even have added
a protest sign from one of the student demonstrations we organized.
The International Time Capsule Society based at Oglethorpe
University in Georgia, which maintains records of capsules from
around the world, reports that some 80 percent of those buried
or put into cornerstones are lost because of a lack of record-keeping
and clear marking, so when a school building, church or lodge
hall is demolished it would be wise to check behind the cornerstone
and there might be a surprise hidden in there.