BEMIDJI, Minn. — It was a gift from the past that could have been lost to history.
For more than a century, the outer wall of Deputy Hall on the Bemidji State campus held a time capsule, filled with documents and photographs of the time leading up to the founding of the university. And on Thursday, Oct. 3, the public saw for the first time what the founders of the school thought important enough to stow away as mementos from their generation.
Earlier the same day, staff and students buried a new capsule so that, one day, a future generation will have the same glimpse into the past that the current generation had from those in 1918.
“While the contents of that time capsule showed us that much has changed in Bemidji over the last 100 years, the pride we feel today for our university and for the city we call home continues, and it’s as strong as it ever was,” school President Faith Hensrud said at Thursday's ceremony.
Following Hensrud’s remarks and a few other short speeches, staff from the university lowered the new capsule into the ground. It was filled with items ranging from a newspaper to a hockey puck to a flash drive with photos and videos from KBSU-TV, the university’s student-run TV station. It also included a list of all the items that were in the 1918 capsule, among many other items.
Andy Bartlett, executive director of communications for the university, said they knew for some time that the capsule had existed at one point in history. A footnote in the book “University in the Pines” by former BSU professor Art Lee, mentioned the capsule briefly:
“It took a large container to accommodate all the memorabilia that went into it,” the historical account of the university said. “As the (Bemidji) Sentinel article of August 16, 1918, read: ‘Records of practically all the proceedings connected with the development… were placed within the casket that is now covered by the cornerstone.’ The items ran from a photograph of Chief Bemidji to copies of eleven different newspapers to another photograph and biographical sketch of the late Representative Pendergast, plus literally dozens of other items.”
Al Nohner, a 1970 BSU graduate and former director of news and publications for the university, said he remembers hearing about the existence of the time capsule when the university remodeled Deputy Hall.
They eventually found the capsule this past September when they cut a stone out of the wall that was engraved with the year 1918. When they took it out and looked in the cavity that remained in the wall, they didn’t see anything. It wasn’t until they went to put the stone back in the wall and heard something rattle inside the stone itself that they knew they were on the right path.
Although he knew the capsule existed when the university began, Bartlett was surprised to find that no one had ever pulled it out before. Records show that Deputy Hall was either added to or remodeled in 1928, 1949, 1979 and 1981.
“As we were doing more research into the centennial, we could not find any evidence that anybody had ever taken it out,” Bartlett said of the capsule. “There wasn’t an explanation of what the cornerstone was or where exactly it was in the building ... I was shocked that we actually found it.”