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Finding the Past: 1962 Time Capsule Opening at the Parent-Infant Center
May 25, 2010, Volume 56, No. 34


Above: The newly installed door on the Marni Sweet Building, and the hollow date marker where the time capsule was discovered in the stone building.

A ceremony was held at the Parent-Infant Center (PIC) on April 27 to open a time capsule that was discovered during the recent renovation of the Marni Sweet Building on the site of the former Philadelphia Divinity School between 42nd and 43rd and Locust and Spruce Streets.

The building, formerly the Divinity School’s library, was acquired by Penn after the Divinity School combined with its sister institution in Cambridge, MA in 1974 (Almanac March 30, 2010).

The renovated Sweet Building will officially be dedicated on September 23 in memory of the late Marni Sweet, PIC’s longtime director (1982-2007). The time capsule was found inside a concrete date marker that had to be moved in order to install an additional exit to comply with building codes and licensing requirements for a child care center.

At the ceremony, executive director of the Parent-Infant Center, Cynthia Roberts, gave opening remarks before the time capsule was opened by the Rev. Dr. Katherine Ragsdale, dean and president of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge.

Above: A Divinity School alumnus tries to identify himself in a class photo that was recovered from the time capsule.

A group of children watched as Rev. Dr. Ragsdale pried open the lead-lined box and carefully unearthed each item.  What surprised onlookers was a letter found inside the box indicating that the capsule was sealed on May 31, 1962. It also included newspapers and other periodicals, class and construction photos, programs of events held at the Divinity School, a Bible, a 1962 Phillies schedule, an American Flag, and a watch that had been carried through World War II, among other items.

Other time capsules on campus include one that was created for the re-dedication of the Kelly Writers House in 1997, and a millennium time capsule that was placed in Houston Hall to memorialize student life in the year 2000 during the opening of Perelman Quad.

There is also the famous cornerstone in College Hall that eluded search efforts for many years.  Set in 1871, it was located exactly 105 years later in a basement men’s room directly beneath the President’s Office. Although it was not opened, the University has a list of its contents, which include building plans, photographs, a University catalog and boxes from student groups, the inaugural speech of then Provost Charles J. Stille, and many other items.  The box, which may remain sealed until the building’s bicentennial in 2071, was inscribed with red and blue pigment, debunking the myth that the University’s colors were established at a 1874 track meet.

Reverend Dr. Katherine Ragsdale, dean and president of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reveals the contents of the time capsule to a group of children from the Parent-Infant Center.




Almanac - May 25, 2010, Volume 56, No. 34