Time capsule to be placed in Aztec Student Union

by Ashley Williams

04_17_13_Features_TimeCapsule_KFSSan Diego State’s Associated Students and Facilities Services are creating a time capsule for the new student union.

“The purpose of the time capsule is basically to leave a little piece of history,” A.S. Executive Vice President Channelle McNutt said.

The time capsule that McNutt, her fellow A.S. executives and her predecessors have been planning will be placed in one of the pillars of the Aztec Student Union. It will be cemented in the building and opened in 50 years.

This will not be the first time a capsule has been tucked away on campus.

There is an unexpected piece of SDSU history located beside the turtle pond. What looks like an unassuming barbecue is actually a time capsule from the 1800s.

The barbecue is constructed from bricks from SDSU’s original building—The California State Normal School in University Heights.

The original time capsule was assembled in 1898 and placed in the cornerstone of the Normal School. When the building was demolished in 1955, SDSU officials were able to access the time capsule and found a variety of objects that gave a snapshot into life in the late 1800s. Among other things, there was a map of the city and county of San Diego, a handwritten poem by a student and a U.S. flag with 45 stars.

The university then added items in 1957, such as a class schedule, football memorabilia and a copy of The Aztec.

The time capsule, with its 1898 and 1957 contents, was built into the Scripps Cottage barbecue in its original location. Scripps Cottage and the barbecue were then picked up and moved to their current sites when the library was expanded.

However, the barbecue is empty now.

“Like a lot of things around here, it is a convoluted story,” SDSU Department of Anthropology Chair Seth Mallios said. “It’s an empty time capsule and a barbecue of old bricks from the old building, but all of the good stuff is in (the library’s) special collections.”

Mallios, who wrote “Hail Montezuma: The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State,” is an expert on SDSU’s history and artifacts. He has also been advising A.S. about what to include in the new time capsule.

Mallios said A.S. should take an innovative approach.

“It is supposed to be (opened) well into the future, so I’d love a hair sample, maybe some blood,” Mallios said.

He specifically suggested a vial of A.S. President Rob O’Keefe’s blood for cloning purposes.

“I would also love to see the students make predictions about what life will be like 100 years from now, 500 years from now, 1000 years from now,” Mallios said. “Because that is the fun part—trying to guess what goes on next with the human condition.”

He also said it would be fun to put real blue books from exams in the time capsule because tests in the future are likely to be conducted differently. Mallios also said items relevant to the city, such as memorabilia from San Diego Comic Con, are important additions to consider.

McNutt hopes to include a copy of “Hail Montezuma,” an A.S. polo shirt, a campus map and a diagram with pictures of the A.S. members who voted for the Modern Space referendum in 2009, which approved an increase in student fees to build the new student union. McNutt also wants to include Aztec athletic memorabilia.

A.S. passed out suggestion cards on campus to gather input about what should be included. It received more than 60 responses.

McNutt noted the difficulty and pressure of deciding what history should be preserved for future generations.

“The idea of understanding that once it’s solidified, there is no going back … It’s kind of a daunting task,” McNutt said.

One of the challenges associated with this project is that it’s hard to predict what types of technology will be relevant in 50 years.

“Should we put a USB drive with music, with old minutes, with the Gangnam Style video? Will people even be able to use a flash drive in 50 years?” McNutt asked.

The current time capsule housed in Special Collections contains VHS tapes that are supposed to be checked for damage every five years and technologically upgraded as needed, but Special Collections Division Head Robert Ray says this hasn’t been done in the years he’s held his position. The time capsule contents are locked in a box that only the president of the university has a key to.

Ray said he would be speaking with SDSU President Elliot Hirshman about obtaining access to the contents in order to carry out his preservative duties.

Regardless of whether or not future Aztecs will be able to use the technology included, the items and devices are representative of the times. SDSU journalism and media studies senior Julie Willis suggested including an iPhone with an SDSU case.

The time capsule will be cemented into the student union in May, and there will be a ceremony hosted by the new A.S. executive officers.

“This (project) is another aspect of students leaving a legacy on campus,” McNutt said.