Digging up yesterday

Messenger photos by Theresa Hennis
London Public Library Bryan Howard (left) uses a hammer to open the lid of a time capsule that was buried on the library grounds 20 years ago. Youth Services Coordinator Mary Anne Wood steadies the capsule.

(Posted Sept. 27, 2019)

By Theresa Hennis, Staff Writer

Last week, London Public Library traveled back in time as staff members opened a time capsule that had been buried on the property for 20 years.

The public was invited to see what was inside at an opening ceremony held Sept. 23. Many in the room reminisced about the people who provided items for the capsule. They also talked about the difference two decades can make in a library, its technology and its patrons.

In 1999, the theme for the library’s summer reading program was “The Incredible Library Time Machine.” As part of the program’s activities, the library asked citizens to pick out items to include in the library’s first time capsule which was then buried on Aug. 21 of that year.

Bryan Howard, current library director, and Mary Anne Wood, youth services coordinator, were as surprised as the audience by some of the artifacts they pulled from the capsule.

A time capsule buried at London Public Library 20 years ago was opened on Sept. 23. The words written on the exterior are: “The Incredible Library Time Capsule.” The capsule contained library documents, newspapers, and photos of library staff members from 1999. The library plans to bury a new time capsule, filled with items relevant to 2019, to be opened in 2039.

“Things change very quickly in the world and especially in the library world,” Howard said.

Among the capsule’s contents were a 1999 library card registration form, a library card, library receipt, and photos of library staff members, some of whom still work at the library today. August 1999 editions of the Madison Messenger and Madison Press also were among the items.

“I think it will be fun for the next generation to open the next capsule we bury and see what we put in,” Wood said.

The three grand prize winners in this year’s summer reading program, themed “A Universe of Stories,” got to choose items to put in the new time capsule. Their choices reflect their personal interests and curiosity about what the future holds.

Grand prize winners in this year’s summer reading program at London Public Library got to choose items for a new time capsule to be buried on the library’s property and opened 20 years from now: (from left) Samahra Horace, 11, Eva Dwyer, 9, and Matthew Dwyer, 11.

Samahra Horace, 11, chose to write herself a letter about what she is like now so that her future self will remember what mattered to her in 2019.

“I wrote about what I’m doing in middle school, my grades, my height and weight so in 20 years I’ll remember what I was like,” she said.

Matthew Dwyer, 11, chose Harry Potter glasses for his item.

“Books are always changing,” he said. “I put in the Harry Potter glasses I wore with my Harry Potter Halloween costume. Will people even know about the Harry Potter books in 20 years or know they are his glasses?”

Dwyer’s sister, Eva, 9, was a grand prize winner, too. She decided that people would need to know what kinds of music children liked in 2019. She chose a Kidz Bop31 CD.

“I wonder if people will listen to it or even know what it is,” she said. “I want to be here in 20 years when they open the capsule.”

London Public Library Director Bryan Howard presents the new time capsule (on the left) that will be buried in the same spot from which the library’s first time capsule was recently unearthed.

The library staff picked items for the new capsule, too. They chose audio visual materials they think might be obsolete in the future, photos of what the library looks like now, and documents that show the current state of the library. They plan to add some surprise pop-culture items, as well.

The new time capsule is scheduled to be opened on Sept. 23, 2039.

To see the contents of the library’s first time capsule, look for the display at the library at 20 E. First St.


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