Time capsule preserves the 2020 Campbell experience for future generations

letters lay spread out on a table with a silver plaque of the Campbell crest

A new landmark will be embedded in Campbell’s red brick walkways this week with the addition of a time capsule set to be opened in 50 years. Filled with memorabilia representing student life in Buies Creek, the capsule is a collaboration between the Student Life, Alumni and Library departments and is part of the annual Founders Week celebration of Campbell history.

The time capsule ceremony will be live streamed at 2 p.m. on February 2, with remarks from President Creed and members of the Student Government Association, who helped collect and catalog items for preservation. The student volunteers worked hard to stay organized, and as project overseer and Dean of the Library Alexia Riggs can attest, preservation is more complicated than burying a few items in a box. 

“Much of our content was digital, and it was a challenge to come up with a method of keeping those files locked in a way that will be accessible in 50 years,” Riggs said. “Computer files from the 1990s look terrible when opened on most modern computers. But we still play records and 8-tracks, and with the protection and equipment we’ve provided, we’re hopeful that all of the files will survive the trip in time.”

Digital files were saved on an external harddrive, password locked so that they can only be opened in 2071, and placed into the capsule just like the physical objects. The capsule itself is 24 inches tall with a steel lid and silicone sealant — guaranteed to last 300 years. Papers might be crushed due to the capsule’s height, so the library invested in archival boxes and preservation kits to help items stay in good shape. Finally, a spreadsheet was created to help future generations navigate the collection. 

Organizing the time capsule project with Dean Riggs was Assistant VP of Alumni Engagement Sarah Swain and Director of Student Activities Chris O’Connor. Metadata & Digital Initiatives Librarian Holley Long was instrumental in sorting entries. Head of Access Services Marie Berry liaised with SGA President Aaron Schnoor to find student submissions and encourage all students and departments to join in with letter and video contributions.

Along with memories from students, alumni and staff, Campbell paraphernalia has a place in the capsule. 

“We have some really unique things preserved,” Riggs said. “My favorite is a plush camel with a bandana. There’s a foam finger from Athletics. There’s beautiful poetry going in from the English department as well. As it continues to grow, I think the most important thing going in is the work of our students.”

Tuesday’s ceremony will take place in front of Kivett Hall, near the J.A. Campbell statue that memorializes the University’s founder. A plaque with a description of the capsule and date will be inlaid into the brick walkway. 

While it was originally meant to be tied to the opening of the new student center, Riggs and the archival team are pleased that the final location of the capsule will be so close to the oldest building on campus, already filled with Campbell history. 

“This has been such a fun project that I hardly know how to describe it. It’s been great to look forward and to look at a reflection of ourselves in the future. It has been a boost to spirits and an exciting opportunity to show future generations who we are.”