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Conn College students create proposals for New London time capsule

December 8, 2018

New London — If some Connecticut College students have it their way, the creation and placement of a future New London time capsule will look quite different than the one placed in 1912.

They heard an underwhelming response to the contents of the box, revealed in November 2016 to be newspapers, coins and the bylaws of the Brainard Masonic Lodge. One commenter on the article about the reveal gave it a C+.

In addition, masons had to drill through layers of plaster, bricks and limestone to locate the copper box sealed in the City Hall cornerstone.

A future time capsule “could be potentially a tourist spot, a place to visit in New London,” said Rose Montera, a senior majoring in art history and museum studies. “By putting it back in City Hall, hiding it away, it’s repeating what was done in a way that doesn’t make sense to a lot of us.”

Montera is one of 17 students in Time Capsule: New London, a 400-level seminar being offered at Connecticut College this semester. Taught by Anna Vallye, assistant professor of art history and architectural studies, the course will be held again in the spring.

The plan is for students to then submit a proposal to city officials, and the class probably will do a presentation in front of the City Council, which the public is welcome to attend.

The seminar came about in conjunction with the city’s exploration of renovations to City Hall, though a timeline for that work is unclear, as plans have been delayed due to funding issues.

Quinlan Low, a senior architecture studies and studio art major, said one thing she liked about the course is “we know that what we’re researching and presenting at least is hopefully going to be used in real life.”

Vallye split her students into six research groups: defense uses of the coast, play and profit on the coast, commerce and industry, New London governance, culture, and the physical container of the time capsule. The first three groups presented their research on Nov. 28, and the latter three on Dec. 5.

For example, the second group researched the history of Ocean Beach, Yale-Harvard boat races, architecture on Huntington Street, coastal transportation and lighthouses. The culture group researched Hygienic Art, Centro de la Comunidad, Church of the City, and Palmer Auditorium at Connecticut College.

The last group discussed how long a capsule should be sealed, the merits of a cylinder versus a box, container materials, cost and location of placement. Montera liked that the Detroit Century Box, created in 1900 and opened in 2000, included community leaders’ predictions for the future.

Some ideas that senior Nadia Bednarczuk had for putting in the time capsule were menus from popular New London restaurants, small vials filled with sand and Apple products.

Other ideas from students included street signs, buttons, Union Station tickets, sound recordings, minutes from City Council meetings and toothpaste from Sheffield Pharmaceuticals.

Felix Reyes, development and planning director for the city, encouraged the addition of technology, saying, “I’m sure 100 years from now, they’ll do whatever they can to figure this out; ‘What’s on this USB?’”

Reyes also commented it would be a shame to put a lot of effort into a time capsule and then place it in a natural environment, with risk of ruin from New England weather. One student commented on the impact of rising sea levels, saying it would be difficult for people in the future to remove a capsule that’s underwater.

Other city officials attending the presentation this past Wednesday were Mayor Michael Passero and Community Development Coordinator Tom Bombria.

The seminar also involved consultation with New London Landmarks and the Custom House Maritime Museum, archival research, and readings on time capsules and New London history.

“It’s really useful to have fresh eyes look at our history and look at where we’re at today, and speculate as to where we’re going,” Passero said.

e.moser@theday.com 

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