Time capsule gives insight into 1990s campus life

May 13, 2022



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

The capsule, a copper box approximately two feet wide and across, was installed with 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 delayed the occasion.

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

The capsule’s contents included 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 were a VHS tape with a recording of the building ceremony, when the time capsule was stored, and a copy of remarks by Dale Alspaugh, who was at that time serving as 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 really is analog,” said Coates. “One of the things I noticed was there really was no standardized font set. Many people used a different typeset or font for everything. Some people submitted things on typewriters because they were still being used regularly. Even the dot matrix printer paper is something I haven’t 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 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 really is analog,” said Coates. “One of the things I noticed was there really was no standardized font set. Many people used a different typeset or font for everything. Some people submitted things on typewriters because they were still being used regularly. Even the dot matrix printer paper is something I haven’t 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.


Watch the opening of the capsule

Watch the Technical Building dedication since 1995

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