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BU students discover century-old time capsule

Students working for Boston University’s Facilities Management and Planning department find a time capsule from 1915 that contains maps, coins and newspapers from World War I. PHOTO COURTESY JEFFREY A. HOSETH

A century-old time capsule was accidentally discovered by a few Boston University students during a reorganization project at Agganis Area in early August.

Over the summer, the students were tasked with reordering the archive room — the space in which all BU project files and records are stored for the university’s Facilities Management and Planning department, according to Jeff Hoseth, the associate director of construction services. They were helping put the archive room’s files and records into a database to expedite future file searches.

On the day of time capsule discovery, the students sifted through about 100 boxes, Hoseth said, including the final box of the day, which housed the six-by-six-by-12-inch copper time capsule from 1915.

“It must have been put aside in one of these boxes and forgotten about or not dealt with until we found it when we were reorganizing all those files,” Hoseth said. “We knew it was a time capsule right away. It was pretty clear what it was.”

He added that among the artifacts in the capsule were photos of old army commanders and buildings, a roster of the soldiers that were stationed in Boston, old currency and field manuals from the forerunner to the National Guard that was there at the time. The capsule also contained newspaper clippings that mentioned the sinking of the Lusitania ship in World War I.

“We had about six or eight students working on this project continually, and they were very excited about it because it was really something from long ago that piqued their interests,” Hoseth said. “I really thought the old pictures of the armory are pretty striking.”

Adam Mumford, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and one of the students in the archive room that day, said upon discovery, he was engrossed by the capsule’s contents.

“I’d been off on an errand when I returned to see my coworkers pouring over a beat-up metal box that came out of a box to be archived,” Mumford wrote in an email. “I was personally fascinated by an exceptionally old quarter that seemed to be in pristine condition and what appeared to be a hand-drawn or prototype map of the Red Line.”

Mumford said that after news broke of the capsule’s unearthing, some of his peers were curious to know more about his findings.

“A couple of friends approached me and said it was cool,” he said. “Another friend wondered if there were any other similar hidden things around BU.”

The students turned the box over to BU Vice President Douglas Sears, who oversees the ROTC program on campus, Hoseth said. Sears plans to give the military-related contents of the capsule to the National Guard to figure out what to do with the historical artifacts.

Several students said they were amazed that a time capsule was discovered on campus and hope the university will offer an exhibit for the capsule’s remaining contents.

Joe Besser, a sophomore in the College of General Studies, said he thinks that learning what others were doing a century ago is exciting.

“I think it’s cool to find something that’s really old like that and to see what kids were doing when they were our age a century ago,” Besser said. “I hope they keep it on campus so students can go see it.”

Kevin Shah, a sophomore in CGS, said he thinks the capsule should be accessible for students to see.

“I think it’s a really fascinating discovery,” Shah said. “I think they should put it in an exhibit because it would allow all of Boston University’s students and people in Boston to really see what life was like and how much time, technology and monetary value has changed.”

Sarah Besser, a junior in the School of Hospitality Administration, said now that a capsule has been found, she thinks BU should hide a new one.

“I feel putting it on an exhibit is the best use of the time capsule,” she said. “I think it’s a good idea. I think it’s cool and I think it would be interesting if BU also hid one in the exhibit.”

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