Connecticut College students complete New London time capsule proposal, exhibits

New London — If the city were to create another time capsule, a group of Connecticut College students suggest it might include menus from Muddy Waters Café and Captain Scott's Lobster Dock, toothpaste from Sheffield Pharmaceuticals, renderings of the future Coast Guard Museum, cityscape photography and sound recordings taken around the city.

Following research that spanned two semesters, students have presented their ideas for an eventual time capsule — and their background historical research — in the form of a proposal, library exhibit and digital exhibit.

Art history and architectural studies professor Anna Vallye started the Time Capsule: New London seminar last fall, in conjunction with the city's talk of renovations to City Hall. The time capsule that was placed in the City Hall cornerstone in 1912 was unearthed in 2016, and many found the contents underwhelming.

The 17 students in the fall semester seminar conceptualized the project and laid the groundwork, Vallye said, through their research on New London history and landmarks. The five students in the spring semester course — it was much smaller because it was for upperclassmen, and most don't wait until the last semester to complete their required seminar, Vallye explained — finalized the exhibitions and proposal.

The second-semester students presented their proposal to the New London City Council on May 6. The timeline for when a capsule might be created is unclear, as that is contingent on City Hall renovations.

"The places that we chose to research are the starting points for generating items for proposed inclusion in the Time Capsule," Eva Brydson explained in the proposal. "We have gathered ideas about contemporary artifacts from each location that epitomize the character of that place, thus conveying the spirit of the city."

Along with recommendations on contents, the proposal also includes recommendations for preservation, such as sealing each item in a plastic polyethylene bag, avoiding newsprint and instead making copies, using oxygen absorbers for digital media, and putting the contents in a stainless-steel container.

The students suggest placing a time capsule near the entrance to City Hall rather than in the cornerstone, so "the location would harken back to the precedent, but be more visible to a casual passerby," Caitlin Teare wrote. "The Time Capsule's visibility would build anticipation for its projected opening date, and also ensure that it will not be forgotten once it is placed in the ground."

The presentation also includes examples of other time capsules and ideas for a placement ceremony.

For the place-based research Brydson — the only student to take the class both semesters — referenced, students spoke to people from New London Landmarks, the New London County Historical Society, the New London Maritime Society, FRESH New London and local businesses.

"I think it's easy for a student at a small residential school to feel like they exist in a bubble, but they don't," Vallye told The Day. "Introducing them, making them aware of this, I think is extremely important. They are members of the community in which they live."

An exhibition the students created on New London history went up in the Linda Lear Center for Special Collections & Archives at Connecticut College's Shain Library in May and will be up until Aug. 15.

A digital exhibition, viewable at bit.ly/nlcapsule, includes historical summaries of 29 sites in the city, along with contemporary and historical photos, posters, postcards, sound recordings and newspaper articles.

The spring semester class collaborated with two other classes that were respectively studying digital sound recording and photography.

The sites featured include The Capitol Theater, Centro de la Comunidad, Naval Submarine Base, New London Harbor Lighthouse, Union Station, Starr Street, Hygienic Art and more.

e.moser@theday.com

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