When construction crews began digging to construct a new building at MIT they had no idea they’d find a time capsule. Which is why they inadvertently cracked the large glass capsule when it was first uncovered. But now the folks at MIT plan to restore the 1957 time-travelling tube, and since the directions clearly state that it shouldn’t be opened until 2957, MIT might even re-bury it soon.
“The tentative decision is to repair/reseal the current capsule which was cracked during the excavation,” Deborah Douglas, the Director of Collections at MIT told me over email. “Contrary to some reports, the capsule has not been opened but it does have a crack, which means that the contents are now exposed to the atmosphere.”
Those contents were expertly sealed using blowtorches and by filling the glass container with argon gas. The tube includes everything from the boring things you’d expect like newspaper clippings, a university mug, and some coins. But it also has some weird and wonderful 1950s cutting-edge tech like a cryotron and a vial of penicillin.
Photo: Melanie Gonick/MIT
Sometimes, people who find time capsules before they’re intended to be opened will open them anyway. People will sometimes then add things to the old time capsule and re-bury them (what I’ve come to call “leapfrog” time capsules). But that’s not what MIT is doing here. They plan on restoring the original time capsule’s broken glass, leaving its contents intact, and possibly burying a new time capsule alongside the old one.
“Vladimir Bulovic [associate dean of innovation] has proposed creating a second capsule for the new MIT.nano building (now under construction and the reason this capsule was inadvertently disinterred) and burying both at the dedication of the new building in 2018,” Douglas told me. “That plan has not been confirmed but is appealing to me.”
For the time being, the time capsule will go on display. It will remain unopened but could still be interesting to see in person, given its transparent treasures of the 1950s.
“The immediate plan to to display the capsule to the general public during MIT’s big Open House event on Saturday, April 23,” Douglas said. “This will most likely be near the site where it was originally buried and discovered, but that has not been determined yet.”