Campus News

New Chapel Time Capsule Provides Glimpse Back to 2005

Story posted June 03, 2005

One day in the future, when a generation of Bowdoin Polar Bears yet-to-come discovers a time capsule in the northwest corner of the Chapel's north tower, they will catch a unique glimpse into the lives of the Polar Bears of 2005.

They will discover several silver plates. A commemorative coin. Keys. A Bowdoin ID card. A statement written by students. And a small, white and silver piece of electronic equipment that, while currently state-of-the-art -- and certainly ubiquitous -- may, by that unknown future date, have retained all the cachet that a manual typewriter or a crank telephone has for us in 2005.

Items placed in the new time capsule were thermal-sealed to help them endure the ravages of time.

The new time capsule was placed in the Chapel cornerstone June 3 during Reunion Weekend, bringing the building's rededication to its official conclusion (the $6 million towers restoration was completed in the fall of 2004, and a rededication ceremony was held October 21).

The Chapel rehabilitation project was recently presented a 2005 Statewide Historic Preservation Honor Award from Maine Preservation. "Bowdoin continues to be honored for understanding the historical value of our wonderful campus," Bowdoin President Barry Mills said during the time capsule placement ceremony. "Now, 150 years later -- almost to the day -- that the Chapel doors first opened, it's time to create a new memorial."

The new time capsule contains a statement written by the Class of 2005 in which they describe the events that indelibly shaped their lives while they were students -- the tragedies of September 11, 2001; the war in Iraq; the South Asian tsunami; and the hotly contested 2004 Presidential election, among them.

A coin commemorating the end of the Boston Red Sox's 86-year World Series drought was placed inside, as was one of today's most in-demand items -- an Apple iPod, loaded with music and photos selected by this year's graduating class. A ceremonial key from the 2001 inauguration of President Barry Mills, Class of 1972, is included, along with a 200th Commencement medallion.

Representatives from Consigli Construction insert the capsule into the cornerstone.

Early on during the Chapel towers' restoration, construction workers discovered a time capsule from 1845 in the northwest cornerstone. Not much was left of -- or in -- the heavily corroded tin box: just a pair of engraved silver plates. These lone survivors from the original time capsule have been placed in the new time capsule along with a new plate inscribed with the names of the 2004-05 academic chairs. Other items included are one metal and one wooden implement discovered during the restoration, and a small 19th-century hammer found under a pew during the interior's 1998 renovation.

The contents of the capsule were chosen from recommendations by a small group of faculty and staff, and primarily by six members of the Class of 2005: Zachary W. Alt, Sarah E. Begin, Michael P. Doore, Brian M. Dunn, Carleen R. Knight, and Sarah E. Mountcastle.

As the Class of 2005 writes to their future counterparts, "We hope that these items provide your generation with a small window to life in the early 21st century. ... Bowdoin shaped our lives as we shaped the Bowdoin community for four years. We hope when you read this statement from the Class of 2005, Bowdoin will continue to be striving toward the ideals set forth by President Hyde:

"To be at home in all lands and all ages;
To count Nature a familiar acquaintance
And Art and intimate friend;
To gain a standard for the appreciation of others' work
And the criticism of your own;
To carry the keys of the world's library in your pocket,
And feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake;
To make hosts of friends...
Who are to be leaders in all walks of life;
To lose yourself in generous enthusiasms
And cooperate with others for common ends--
This is the offer of the College for the best four years of your life."

Jim Williams '55 recalled how freshmen raced each other to the Chapel to ring the bells.

During the time capsule placement ceremony, two Bowdoin alumni reflected on their four years at the College.

H. James Williams Jr., Class of 1955, shared memories of ringing the tower bells after athletic events, attending Chapel, and the tradition of "wooding" -- the stamping of feet during services, which would cause enough vibration to seemingly knock the very stones from the towers. Upon reading in Bowdoin magazine that each individual tower stone would be pulled out for the restoration, he declared how happy was that "the custom of wooding continues."

Pam Karches '05 expressed pride in the timeless bond all Bowdoin graduates have with each other.

Pamela G. Karches, who graduated just one week ago as a member of the Class of 2005, reflected on four years of dancing on the quad, playing ice hockey with 12 of her closest friends, studying away in Sri Lanka, and checking email 15 times a day. With the tragedies of September 11 and the war, she and her classmates "attended Bowdoin during a radically different time in history...but we retain a timeless bond with alumni of all generations. [The Class of 2005] is forever a part of Bowdoin's extended family."

In related news, the Bowdoin Chapel renovation project is the recipient of a 2005 Preservation Award from the Victorian Society of America, New England Chapter. The award presentation will take place Monday, June 27, in Boston.

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