Time capsule gives insight into 1990s campus life

May 13, 2022

A time capsule has been planted in the Technology Building at Purdue University Northwest’s (PNW) Westville campus to finally shine its time during a recent open house.

The capsule, a copper box about two feet wide and across, was installed in the Technology Building’s cornerstone in the spring of 1995 after construction was completed. The capsule was intended to be opened in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic was delayed the occasion.

The PNW University Library and the Westville Warriors student body presented a joint program, in the spirit of PNW’s 5.75 Roaring Ahead celebration, to display the capsule’s items, said Joseph Coates, Librarian Manager and University Archivist.

The capsule’s contents include a hat with signatures, a Purdue North Central Student Senate banner, the Student Senate’s constitution, course catalogs, a registration card for classes, and a university annual report. Also included was a VHS tape recording of the building, when the time capsule was stored, and a copy of remarks by Dale Alspaugh, who was serving that time at the Chancellor at Purdue North Central.

Coates says many of the capsule’s items reflect a time period when personal computers and digitized materials were becoming more prevalent in US society and higher education.

“One of the big differences with this stuff is how much of it is really analog,” said Coates. “One of the things I noticed was there was really no standardized font set. Many people use a different typeset or font for everything. Some people submit things on typewriters because they are still being used regularly. Even the dot matrix printer paper is something I have not seen since high school. Of course, we had the VHS tape, and VHS was just beginning to lose popularity at that time. “

Guest Laura Blaney, Porter Counter Commissioner for the 1st District, attended the open house. Blaney was serving as the Student Senate’s vice president in 1995 when the capsule was stored. Blaney earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1998 and a master’s degree in biology from Purdue West Lafayette in 2001.

You can view a video of the Technology Building ceremony, which features remarks from Blaney, and a video of Blaney and Coates examining the time capsule’s contents on the Purdue University Northwest Archives and Special Collections YouTube channel.

The capsule’s contents will be kept in PNW’s archives. Students, faculty, and staff are welcome to schedule a session to view the contents by visiting pnw.edu/library.

Time capsule contents

The time capsule opening revealed several items representative of the 1990s Westville campus life, such as course information and registration materials, a Purdue North Central student Senate banner, a signed hat, and a university annual report.

Coates says many of the capsule’s items reflect a time period when personal computers and digitized materials were becoming more prevalent in US society and higher education.

“One of the big differences with this stuff is how much of it is really analog,” said Coates. “One of the things I noticed was there was really no standardized font set. Many people use a different typeset or font for everything. Some people submit things on typewriters because they are still being used regularly. Even the dot matrix printer paper is something I have not seen since high school. Of course, we had the VHS tape, and VHS was just beginning to lose popularity at that time. “

Guest Laura Blaney, Porter Counter Commissioner for the 1st District, attended the open house. Blaney was serving as the Student Senate’s vice president in 1995 when the capsule was stored. Blaney earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1998 and a master’s degree in biology from Purdue West Lafayette in 2001.

You can watch a video of the Technology Building ceremony, which features remarks from Blaney, and a video of Blaney and Coates examining the time capsule’s contents on the Purdue University Northwest Archives and Special Collections YouTube channel.

The capsule’s contents will be kept in PNW’s archives. Students, faculty, and staff are welcome to schedule a session to view the contents by visiting pnw.edu/library.


Watch the opening of the capsule

Watch the technical building dedication from 1995

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