Burying the past: Anthropology Lab TA accepting donations for COVID-19 time capsule
Time capsule from 2010 just outside the Anthropology and Public Archaeology Labs with a hand for size comparison. Photo Credit: Uzi Baram.

Burying the past: Anthropology Lab TA accepting donations for COVID-19 time capsule

Time capsules as we know them are one of many ways to preserve history and provide a lens into the lives of those who put it together. A snippet of time can be kept in a box—stowed away until it almost becomes the distant past—before the next generation (or two, or three) appear to bring those memories back to life. Thesis student and Anthropology Lab Teaching Assistant (TA) Rocio Ramirez-Castro announced on Nov. 2 that they will be collecting items through the end of the semester to include in a COVID-specific time capsule that will stay in the attic of the Anthropology Lab for years to come.

The time capsule will strive to focus on the coronavirus pandemic and the specific ways it played out for New College students who were on-campus during the initial lockdown, for those that came during online classes and those who entered college masked.

“I saw the attic in the Anthro Lab, and it’s just empty and it’s clean,” Ramirez-Castro stated. “What if coming to an end of my time as the Anthro Lab TA, we left something up here? And so, I was trying to think what was at all significant about the time I’ve been TA or the time I’ve been here at New College, and it has obviously been impacted and disrupted by COVID-19.”

“I was here for one semester when it was ‘normal’ and then the rest was online, and there was a period where I could’ve sworn there were maybe 20 students on campus total,” Ramirez-Castro continued. “New College went through so many stages until it got to its reopening, that there are for sure two years worth of pictures of students going about like everything’s normal except masked up.”

In Mar. 2010, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the New College Public Archaeology Lab Uzi Baram, along with other faculty, staff and students celebrated the opening of the Public Archaeology Lab located right next to the Anthropology Lab. During the celebration, a time capsule meant to commemorate the newly built lab was buried by students to be opened in 2060. In it were “letters from current students to students of the future, foam footballs bearing New College’s trademark ‘Still Undefeated’ slogan and a bottle opener,” as reported on the New College website.

Top view of the 2010 time capsule before it was buried. Photo Credit: Uzi Baram.

“I would like to see pictures, even if they’re printed onto copy paper or polaroids,” Ramirez-Castro suggested when asked about what items could be donated. “I think the different New College paraphernalia alluding to the pandemic would be cool, and pictures of students at events or ‘student life’ type daily images where you took the picture and didn’t realize the significance of it, like there were a few staple events that happened but with masks on.”

Anything pertaining to student life during the pandemic counts and is more than appreciated as donations, for the time capsule just “not anything that will rot up there and nothing too big,” Ramirez-Castro pointed out.

“I think that a lot of our recollection of our time here during COVID-19 has been surrounding the things that we’ve lost, the things that we weren’t able to do or the way things would’ve been different,” Ramirez-Castro expressed. “But I think that as a fourth-year, thinking back on it, this has been my New College experience and it is what it was. So I would really like to see [the capsule] be a collection of the times that people were happy and resilient throughout something that was horrible as opposed to documenting the amount of restriction that was occurring at the time.”

In a publication co-written by Baram in his graduate school years, he and his crewmates explain time capsules as “mysterious collections of objects that people select to represent themselves and their cultural milieux—have great potential to inform us about the past.”

This time capsule will strive to do just that, to not only remind those in the future of the good—and somewhat confusing times—but to continue sharing the memories and experiences of a defining time in modern history.

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