posted on June 6: Message in a copper tube?


[img_inline align=”right” src=””]Construction workers struck copper at Gilmour Hall recently when they took down the building's brick fagade.

They found a time capsule lodged behind the date stone that marks the dedication of the building in 1959.

It turns out that this particular time capsule — a 30.5 centimetre- (12 inches) long tarnished copper tube that is soldered shut at both ends — was actually discovered about seven years ago when the building's date stone was moved farther north on the wall when the wheelchair elevator was installed.

Physical plant associate director John Farrell, who is overseeing construction of the new McMaster University Student Centre (MUSC), said because of the previous discovery, construction workers working on MUSC and work associated with that were on the lookout for the copper tube.

“I was surprised when we pulled it out of the wall seven years ago when we were moving the date stone,” he said.

“We had no idea it was there. There is no organized way of recording where there are time capsules. One of the things we should be doing is establishing procedures for time capsules.”

The workers who found the tube called Kim Davison, MUSC administrative director, so it could be safely stored while the building's fagade is refurbished.

She was intrigued by the discovery. “It's an interesting mystery,” said Davison.

The Daily News has made several inquiries to determine the history behind the Gilmour Hall time capsule. So far, no one, including retired history professor Charles Johnston who has written two books about the University's history, knows how the time capsule originally ended up behind the building's date stone.

Farrell said there are likely time capsules behind date stones on several University buildings, some of which date back 71 years. He knows for sure there are time capsules behind the Mills Library date stone and the Michael G. DeGroote building and items are being assembled to put in a time capsule for the new Institute of Applied Health Sciences building.

The University of Maryland has a Web page with links devoted to the time capsules found on its campus. One of its time capsules was found and opened with much fanfare in 1986. The contents were a disappointment though because some of the material had deteriorated.

The Mills Library's time capsule was placed behind the date stone when the new wing was added to the building six years ago, Farrell said. Items picked by library staff for the time capsule included microfiche, a card celebrating the opening of the new wing and a photo of the team that designed and built the addition.

Farrell said the Gilmour Hall time capsule will be placed behind the existing date stone when bricklayers replace the bricks of the south wall and parts of the west wall of Gilmour Hall sometime in the next few weeks. The bricks will match those used on the new student centre to give the buildings a monolithic view from the south.

Farrell does not believe the time capsule should be opened.

“With a time capsule you only open it once. A 100 years is a nice round number.”

Others believe the time capsule should be opened and a new time capsule should be placed behind the date stone.

What do you think? Send an e-mail to the and tell us what should happen to the Gilmour Hall time capsule. We'll publish a report on your feedback in the coming days.

McMaster Memories: Kim Davison, administrative director of the McMaster University Student Centre, holds the copper time capsule recovered behind the Gilmour Hall date stone.

Photo: Shelly Easton