Do not open until 2072
There is one special box at Virginia Tech at Virginia Tech that won't get opened during the holiday season. In fact, it won’t get opened for another 50 years.
On Dec. 13, administrators, faculty, staff, students, and friends of Virginia Tech gathered on the Drillfield to dedicate the university’s first-ever time capsule.
As the university’s 18-month sesquicentennial celebratory period draws to a close this month, the event marked the culmination of more than two years of collecting, sorting, digitizing, and referencing historic publications and documents, Hokie memorabilia, and related items for a time capsule that will be opened during 2072, the bicentennial year.
At the ceremony, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands recognized the work of the six-member time capsule committee, led by Tom Tillar ’69, M.A. ’73, Ed.D. ’78, former vice president of alumni relations.
“We’ve gained a fuller understanding of the university’s past, and as we turn our attention to the future, we recognize that the 150th year is a unique time for Virginia Tech,” said Sands. “We look back on 1872 as a time when our predecessors, who marched right here on the Drillfield, laid the foundation for the university we are today. This time capsule and seat wall will be a lasting monument to our time in 2022 as we again set the course for Virginia Tech’s future."
The 3-by-2-by-1-foot rectangular metal capsule holds more than 160 items; thousands of pages of digitized documents, maps, photos, and videos; and letters from Sands and the committee. It weighs nearly 150 pounds filled. It will be sealed in a Hokie Stone bench wall, which looking from the Drillfield, sits to the right of Burruss Hall, near the symbolic center of the Blacksburg campus.
The structure was designed to complement Alwood plaza, an existing structure to the left of the building. According to Jack Rosenberger, campus landscape architect, while the design of the two structures is similar, the new seat wall required some special modifications.
“The difference is that we needed to put a large time capsule box inside of this. We had to sort of change the design to incorporate that and create basically a box that a box can sit inside of,” Rosenberger said. “Knowing that there is a tangible object on the Drillfield — in such a special space to past, present, and future Hokies — it’s really a special treat.”
For two years, the six-member time capsule committee met regularly to brainstorm ideas for what to include in the capsule.
“The committee has spent months and months gathering materials, books that are about Virginia Tech, all aspects of Virginia Tech,” said Judy Ridinger, who served as a liaison with the group and the sesquicentennial planning committee. “We worked with Special Collections in the library and gathered some information there. But those of us on the committee have been around Virginia Tech for quite some time. So we were familiar with a lot of the different things that we thought would be important.”
Some of the items contained in the time capsule include:
- A copy of the first Bugle, which was printed in 1895.
- Copies of Virginia Tech Magazine related to significant points in the university’s history, including the three issues printed during the sesquicentennial year.
- A 2022 class ring.
- A statue of Frank Beamer.
- A signed copy of “Don’t Blow Yourself Up” by Homer Hickam ’64.
The committee also worked with Special Collections and University Archives in the University Libraries to digitize photos, videos, and thousands of documents, including meeting minutes and other historic documentation from the Board of Visitors and other leadership teams and committees from the past 150 years. During Homecoming weekend, members of the committee created a display of items that would be added to the time capsule for interested campus visitors to view.
Tillar acknowledged that because this time capsule is the first of its kind at Virginia Tech, “there was no handbook to follow. So there was pretty much an open-ended opportunity to be creative in curating memorabilia that could be preserved for another 50 years.”
When packing the materials, the committee took care to include desiccant to reduce the effects of humidity and ordered special plastic bags that would help protect the enclosed items.
In addition to Tillar and Ridinger, committee members included Clara Cox, former director of university publications; Kira Dietz, assistant director of Special Collections and University Archives; Alan Munshower, digital collections archivist; and Laura Wedin MFA ’84, associate director of student engagement.
“I think it's exciting. It's really exciting,” said Cox. “I've been interested in Tech history for a long, long time. Now it feels like I'm part of Tech history myself in working on this project.”
At the close of the ceremony, Charlie Phlegar, senior vice president for advancement, invited guests to join in a toast.
“Here's to 150 years, and here is to what is to come,” Phlegar said. “Go Hokies!”