Archivist wants time capsule to tell story of our time for future students



Next week, PNW will dedicate a time capsule that will be opened in 25 years. Joseph Coates, the university’s archivist, has been curating the memorabilia to be included. These and other items will be sealed in a copper container next week in the Technology Building cornerstone in Westville.

As PNW gets ready to seal away a time capsule, the man responsible frets about whether it will be decipherable.

“One of the things I really hope is that the media, the SD card and USB drive [that are being put in], will be readable in the future,” said Joseph Coates, reference librarian manager and university archivist – and the man in charge of filling the new time capsule.

The university will seal away a new time capsule on Nov. 2 in the Technology Building cornerstone in Westville. Though the university archivist is heading the project, it’s really meant to be a fun way to look at the past. 

 “We’ll open it … at the 30-year anniversary of PNW, but the 100-year anniversary of the Purdue Calumet/North Central legacy institutions,” said Coates.  That will be the 2046-47 academic year. 

PNW recently opened a time capsule that had been dedicated in 1995 and placed in the Westville Technology Building. It was on the Purdue North Central campus, since the merger creating Purdue Northwest had not yet taken place. 

The capsule contained a hat, a Purdue North Central Student Senate banner, the Student Senate’s constitution, course catalogs, a registration card for classes and a university annual report. It also included a VHS tape with a recording of the building ceremony, when the time capsule was stored, and a copy of remarks by Dale Alspaugh, who was then chancellor at Purdue North Central.

“You really noticed how much technology has changed,” said Coates. “I’m old enough to remember VCRs as new and expensive … when they put [the time capsule] in, we were on the tail end of VHS, where DVDs were starting to become a thing.” Some students say that modern technology should be part of this time capsule so a future generation can get a glimpse of life today.” 

“I’d like to see an air pod case with one air pod in it go in the capsule,” said Khalia Temple, a junior majoring in Criminal Justice. “Apple is advancing so much now that air pods are going to look totally different. I collect all my old iPhones, so I would put those in.”

Her sister Ariana Temple, also a junior Criminal Justice major, agreed.

“I would like to see something that’s really big in this generation,” Ariana said. “Definitely an iPhone 5, or a [Nintendo] DS. In 2040, they probably won’t even know what a DS is. Something grand from this generation that will be shocking in that one.”

Other students don’t think technology matters. 

“I want something that represents the time, something that tells future students the times we’re living in now,” said Miranda Creed, a junior in Psychology. “Some type of PNW merch, maybe the designs will be different and future students will look at it as throwbacks.”

Victoria Gall, a senior Psychology major, agreed.

“I would like something that represents the year, like a current textbook or trophy or award a team has won,” she said. “I’d put in one of my best papers, to show how people wrote in 2022, as opposed to 2045.”

Khalia said the time capsule should include a historic reference. 

“Something that signifies something big now, like Black Lives Matter, or LGBTQ+, it’s going to be something so different then,” said Khalia. “A lot is changing now with us standing and speaking up, so who knows.”

Coates agrees with that vision. 

“We just lived through a very unique time, we’re still on the tail end of the first pandemic that the world has seen in over 100 years,” he said. “We just had unification in our first five years as a new institution from the two legacy institutions. I really hope we can tell a history of the first five years of PNW. Here’s us post-pandemic, post 2020 election, post- what America has devolved into, and get a snapshot of who we are as a culture.”