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Northwestern opens 62-year-old time capsule

University officials reveal the contents of Kresge Centennial Hall cornerstone

EVANSTON - Northwestern University opened a time capsule that was placed in the Kresge Centennial Hall cornerstone in 1954, revealing on Wednesday the items sealed within the building.

Before a row of TV news cameras assembled in Deering Library, University Archivist Kevin Leonard used a heavy mallet and wedge to break open the large metal box. He discovered a collection of helium-filled glass tubes, made to preserve the documents inside.

The time capsule’s contents included a roster of donors to the Kresge Centennial Hall campaign fund, a list of names of the campaign's workers (alumni), a nine-page biographical profile of Sebastian S. Kresge, a photograph of Mr. Kresge, a typewritten copy of Northwestern's charter, the text of the remarks made at the cornerstone-laying ceremony Jan. 31, 1954, and newspaper articles relating to Kresge Hall fundraising and construction, among other items.

The capsule had been in the care of University officials since construction workers discovered it during an early phase of the recent Kresge renovation project.

“The project is a complete gut renovation,” said Bonnie Humphrey, director of design at Northwestern’s Facilities Management. “As we were demolishing all of the interior, we were also doing masonry repairs on Kresge’s exterior, and our contractor ran into this mysterious box in the wall.”

As University officials reflected on the building’s history Wednesday, workers continued putting finishing touches on the new and improved Kresge Hall. One of the most heavily used buildings on campus, Kresge houses most of the Weinberg College of Arts and Science’s humanities classes and departments.

Designed with function in mind, the original Kresge Hall was a durable space without a lot of frills. Still, the Kresge building is familiar to legions of alumni because nearly every undergraduate student took at least one humanities class there.

When students return in September for the fall quarter, the new Kresge will have a very different look and feel, with ample natural light, smart classroom technology and updated mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection and communication systems. It also will be one of the most energy-efficient facilities on campus.

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