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Original Du Pont Hall time capsule harkens back to '57

Sept. 19, 2002--The cornerstone of the newly expanded and renovated Du Pont Hall contains a time capsule commemorating two events that are separated by 45 years—the dedication of the original building on May 11, 1957, and the rededication ceremony that will be held on Sunday, Sept. 22.

University Archivist Jean K. Brown places materials in a new time capsule, sealed and buried recently in the cornerstone of Du Pont Hall.

When the building’s first cornerstone was laid in 1957, a time capsule was placed there, although no record apparently was made of its contents, according to Jean Brown, director of records management and archival services. That time capsule, a 16-inch-long, welded metal box, was uncovered when the cornerstone was excavated during the latest renovations. It later was opened at a meeting of University administrators in Hullihen Hall.

The contents were wet, but Brown and Assistant Archivist Ian Janssen managed to decipher all the documents and either photograph them or find duplicate copies.

“We peeled all the layers of paper apart with tweezers, and we were able to identify everything,” Brown said. “They had included a typewritten list of the contents of the box, and we photocopied that.”

The contents included an invitation to the 1957 ceremony and copies of speeches delivered at the event, excerpts from Board of Trustees papers documenting the plans for constructing the new engineering building, an undergraduate catalog and the May 10, 1957, editions of the student newspaper The Review and of The Wilmington (Del.) Morning News. The latter’s front-page stories concerned such subjects as Sen. John F. Kennedy’s criticism of President Eisenhower’s “highest peacetime budget” and the arrest of a Hockessin, Del., man after police raided a homemade still.

Also found in the capsule was a small, silver drafting angle engraved with information about the ceremony at which the cornerstone was laid. That piece is now in the collection of the University Archives.

Replicas of the documents from the original time capsule were placed on a CD for reburial, and a second CD was created with items selected to give a view of the University in 2002. The new items included recent issues of The University of Delaware Messenger, UpDate and other campus publications, the UD master plan, histories of the University and of the du Pont family and historic and modern photographs of the campus.

In addition to the new CD, the capsule’s additional contents include a sampling of yellow ribbons and the messages written on them by members of the University community immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

An inventory of all files on the CDs, wrapped in plastic this time, also was placed in the new time capsule, which was sealed and placed in the new cornerstone.

Nine other buildings on campus are known to have time capsules in their cornerstones, Brown said, all buried before the original Du Pont Hall in 1957.

“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first of these time capsules to be opened, because other building renovations on campus didn’t disturb the cornerstones,” Brown said. “It had been 45 years since anybody had seen some of these items from Du Pont Hall, and it could be another 100 or more years before they’re seen again.”