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Time Capsule Marks Tozzer Renovation
Items from Tozzer's time capsule.

Peter V. MarsdenOne hundred years from now, what will people think of Post-it notes, wind-up toys or the technological marvel of our generation, the smartphone?

Future Harvard faculty, students, staff and administrators will have the opportunity to examine these early 21st-century items that are contained within a time capsule placed in the outside wall of the Tozzer Library. At a ceremony on Oct. 17, faculty and staff discussed the opportunity to place items into a capsule to be viewed by people 100 or more years from now.

“Isn’t it wonderful we’re putting it in there for 100 years?” asked Dean of Social Science Peter Marsden.

Marsden, who is the Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of Sociology, pointed out that in his role as dean he has spent enough time with anthropologists to know that 100 years in anthropology is “a blink of an eye.”

“So I invite you all back here in 100 years to open this time capsule,” Marsden joked.

Tozzer, one of the world’s largest anthropology research libraries, is undergoing a complete renovation which will unite archaeologists in the Peabody Museum with anthropologists when both relocate to Tozzer upon its completion this spring. The goal is to strengthen the disciplines within the department by bringing them together and to make Tozzer a series of collaborative spaces in addition to a facility for book storage.

“I’m really looking forward to the library re-opening in this new building. There will be new synergies and contiguous space,” said Lynne Schmelz, librarian for the sciences. “There will be opportunities for new collaborations with faculty, students, museum staff, librarians and scholars from around the world. The building will be a different destination.”

The time capsule brings together modern ephemera—postcards, USB drives, a campus map, movie posters and academic documents—compiled by Tozzer Library Associate Librarian for Collections Janet Steins in collaboration with faculty and staff from the Anthropology and Social Sciences departments, the Sensory Ethnography Lab, the Zooarchaeology Laboratory and the Peabody Museum.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith joined librarians, faculty, staff and builders as the time capsule contents were sealed and placed inside the new Tozzer building in hopes that future scholars will discover it.

When the time capsule is eventually unveiled Anthropology Department Chair Gary Upton predicts “the world will be an extraordinarily different place.” He noted that a century ago the plans for Widener Library were drawn up. In addition, 1913 saw the first assembly line, the dedication of the Lincoln Highway and, less than a year before the start of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson’s claim that the United States would never again attack another country.

A plaque on the new Tozzer Library’s wall will indicate the time capsule contained within. The library will host another commemoration upon its completion in the spring.