It's a little like placing a personal ad in the classified section of The Sun. For publication seven and a half decades from now.
Opening their hearts and minds to write messages for anyone to read--and not knowing for certain if anyone ever will--more than 200 alumni, students, faculty and staff are depositing their thoughts, reflections, jokes and even prayers in a university time capsule.
The capsule will be installed in the Gilman Hall foyer this Friday, Oct. 12, after a 5 p.m. ceremony on the upper quad at Homewood. It's the final major event in this year's celebration of the 125th anniversary of the founding of The Johns Hopkins University. All are invited.
The capsule--to be reopened in 2076, the bicentennial of the university and the tricentennial of the United States--will also contain a letter from President William R. Brody, the university's 125th anniversary commemorative book (Knowledge for the World) and dozens of artifacts and university publications. News coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States--from both mainstream and university publications--has been included.
But perhaps the most interesting and unusual items are the personal messages from members of the university community. They responded to an invitation to fill out a message form on the 125th anniversary Web site.
They talk about everyday life at Johns Hopkins in 2001, or recount experiences from when they were students. They discuss their hopes for the future of the university. They dispense advice from the perspective of the early 21st century.
Some make political statements. Some make jokes. Some write very formally. Some use the latest slang. Some ask our successors at Johns Hopkins to convey very personal greetings to their children, who will be elderly themselves by the time they receive them.
Many of the messages, submitted over the past several weeks, reflect on the events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath, for the university and the world. "May you never know the tragedy that we have experienced," one staff member wrote.
The messages are "burned" onto a CD and also will be in the time capsule in paper form.
The capsule itself was designed and built by staff at the Applied Physics Laboratory. Its interior cavity is a 15-inch cube, covered by a transparent polycarbonate hatch. Once the hatch was sealed, APL staff pumped out normal air and replaced it with inert argon gas to protect the contents. Eisenhower Library staff deacidified newspapers placed in the capsule to prevent them from deteriorating.