The smell of old paper and faded ink wafts through the Marquette University Archives reading room.
Letters, pictures, maps, Marquette Tribunes and more… My eyes scan hungrily, excited to explore and learn about campus life in 1965.
Michelle Sweetser, university archivist, presents a carefully laid out buffet of artifacts. It’s all part of a well-preserved Marquette secret.
The secret? In 1965, Schroeder Hall residents put together a time capsule to be opened in the year 2000.
The time capsule was buried in front of Joan of Arch Chapel during a period of renovation in 1965. Then it was buried under concrete for 35 years.
Back then, the year 2000 seemed millennia away — a future filled with robots and Martians.
That’s how I found myself paging through hundreds of student questionaries’ and pictures.
But before I get into what I found, let me tell you about 1965.
Life in the ’60s was filled with faded jeans and corduroys. The civil rights movement was in full swing, nuclear warfare was a real fear and the Beatles were on top of the world. Phrases like “far out” and “groovy” were thrown around.
Each fall, Marquette held an annual Carnival. The weeklong festival included chariots races, variety shows and a formal ball. Student organizations set up games and booths in the Old Gym.
In 1965, the residents of Schroeder Hall (an all-male hall at the time) needed a project for the Carnival. They decided to put together a time capsule.
The Tribune talked about the time capsule for weeks, promoting it along with that year’s Carnival theme, Futurama.
Some 3,500 students dressed up and attended as Martians and robots. The gym was decorated with orbiting satellites, rockets and tanks turned into moon craters.
This is how 1965imagined the future.
The Time Capsule.
For a dime you could put a questionnaire in the time capsule. For a quarter you could put in a Polaroid picture. A bargain to leave your mark in history here at Marquette.
Letters written by William J. Haddad, chair of Schroeder Hall Activities Committee, men of 5-North, Father Naus (chaplain of Schroeder Hall at the time), and Robert Sullivan, president of Schroeder Hall Board of Governors, told stories about Marquette in 1965.
Two maps were also included in the capsule.
The first was a current map of campus. The second was a projection of a future map of campus in the year 2000. This map was painted by Tom Steiner, a resident in Schroeder Hall.
There was an essay about Marquette University in 1965, which depicts a university that revolved around academics and a healthy social life.
The most fascinating artifacts in the time capsule were the collection of pictures and student questionnaires.
The questions reflected the current events of people at the time.
“Will the world of 2000 A.D. have disarmed itself and use the limitless sources of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes?”
“Realizing the position of the neutral nations in today’s world, will they favor the East or the West in 2000 A.D.?
“Considering the aims of the chief powers of the world today and their respective situations, will there be a year 2000 A.D.?
"Will life have been discovered on other planets by the year 2000 A.D.?"
Each questionnaire had places where people could leave comments and a personal message.
Some omitted, some simply said “Hi!” Or “Good Luck!”
But some offered advice, a shout out or a predication.
“Don’t eat Schroeder Hall food, it will make you sick.”
“In 35 years, the world will have changed more from the world of today than it has in all previous history. We salute you, the pioneers of our greatness.”
Some even acknowledged how bleak the future looked…“Greetings! I hope most of my pessimistic predications are completely wrong. Here’s hoping somebody is around to read this.”
[NEWS FLASH “You only live once” is a saying that has been around since the 60’s. Drake didn’t invent YOLO.]
After examining all the remains in the time capsule (reading hundreds of questionnaires, reaching out to alums, devouring old Tribunes) I realized the fragility of time.
Was it amazing to examine all these artifacts? Yes! I encourage everyone to check out University Archives, if not for research, for the fun of LEARNING SOMETHING.
But my research led me to an epiphany.
Time cannot be stopped. Even if something is preserved, eventually everything is forgotten if we simply allow it to collect dust in a room.
But what if we choose to remember? What if we make the effort to connect with our past?
After the 1965 time capsule was dug up, a new one was put in its place. A plaque marks the place in front of Joan of Arc where the 2000 time capsule will be opened in 2025.
That capsule is filled with more letters, more pictures, more questionnaires.
And where does our generation leaves its mark? On social media pages lost in endless internet clutter? Refresh the page and it’s gone.
Why not make your own personal time capsule? Something to find again in a couple years and say, “Look kids. This is a letter I wrote, on actual piece of paper. Look kids, here is a REAL newspaper that people used to get everyday.”
I understand the irony of saying this in a blog post, but hopefully this story doesn’t become just another shout in the void.
Why not leave something more permanent?
Learn more about university archives and how you can explore the past here.