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Courtesy MIT Museum

Prof. Harold E. Edgerton and then-MIT President James R. Killian, Jr. plant a time capsule next to Building 26 in June 1957. The capsule was found by the MIT.nano construction crew last week.

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MIT will likely rebury the 58-year-old time capsule unearthed last week at the construction site of the future MIT.nano building. The time capsule, uncovered more than nine centuries earlier than intended, currently resides in the MIT Museum.

“The initial plan is to display the capsule at next spring’s big Open House event,” Deborah Douglas, director of collections and a curator at the MIT Museum, told The Tech. “Then, the proposal is to seal the capsule inside a new glass sleeve and reevaluate the air. Vladimir Bulovic has suggested that a second capsule for MIT.nano be created and the two capsules be reburied at the dedication of the new facility,” Douglas said.

The time capsule’s existence had not been forgotten, but the construction crew was not aware of the capsule’s exact location. “Unlike the capsule under The Great Sail [in front of building 54] or in the Stata Center under the Radar antenna, there was no marking on the ground,” Douglas said.

MIT President James Killian and Prof. Harold Edgerton buried the capsule on June 5, 1957, to mark the dedication of the Karl Taylor Compton Laboratories in Building 26.

A note on the outside of the capsule instructs future generations to leave the capsule unopened until 2957. Contrary to what some online news sites have reported, MIT has not opened the capsule.

Along with scientific documents and newspapers, the glass container holds a commemorative beer mug from the class of 1957, a tonic bottle, and 91 cents in newly minted coins from the First National Bank of Boston. The tube was filled with argon gas and sealed to prevent decay. The capsule also contains an amount of carbon-14, which will help future scientists determine the capsule’s age, in the event that the documents decay. Unlike wood and metal, the glass walls will not rot or oxidize.

The capsule’s rediscovery presents an opportunity to repair the capsule’s glass sleeve, increasing the chances that this piece of history will successfully reach its destination in the year 2957.