Piece of the Past

The time capsule placed in Jefferson Hall in 1952 (pictured) was removed Thursday.

Sept. 29, 2012

Time capsule reveals glimpse of the 1950s.

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First, a lesson: Tape is, perhaps, not a great addition to a time capsule.

But aside from a few hard-to-open packets of aging paper (tightly taped into rolls), a time capsule opened this morning at Pacific University offered a fun, and educational, glimpse into times gone by.

The capsule was embedded in the outer wall of Jefferson Hall, home to the College of Optometry, behind a plaque commemorating the contributions of Dr. G. Orlo Jefferson and in memory of his wife, Matilda.

Facilities staffers gently removed the plaque, uncovering three long metal cylinders that had been stuffed with mementos from 1952, the year the building was completed. Together, staff from the Office of Alumni Relations and faculty from the College of Optometry, discovered a treasure trove of history.

History, it seems, doesn’t always smell great—there was definitely a bit of mold and decay taking place. But much of the contents were in good condition.

There were papers galore: a business card for Pacific’s optometry clinic, flyers and brochures form the fundraising campaign for the building, class schedules, an academic catalog and even one student’s diploma.

There also were select items included, one assumes, to show the healthcare system of the 1950s: a pair of cat-eye glasses, of course, for the College of Optometry. But also tiny beakers and test tubes, tin pill canisters (that may be collector’s items today) and even some of the higher-level pharmaceuticals used by doctors of the time.

“We could be sitting in class right now and not seeing this time capsule,” exclaimed a second-year optometry student who had happened by during the opening.

“We could be studying, like chumps!” joked a friend.

The contents of the time capsule were presented to the Class of 1952 at its reunion dinner Friday night during Homecoming and now will be cataloged and stored by University Archives. 

In the meantime, the Office of Alumni Relations is working on a new time capsule to return to the building before the commemorative plaque is restored. Rest assured, though: They’re looking for archive-safe acid free paper, and they won’t be using tape.