Document Type


Publication Title

American Archivist

Publication Date

Winter 2019


Advocacy, Collective memory, Collaboration, College and university archives, Outreach


During the demolition of an Illinois State University dormitory in the spring of 2016, workers discovered two time capsules. Tasked with their care, the university archivist looked for archival guidance on the safe handling of time capsules, best practices for working with their contents while balancing public demand for access. This case study examines the time capsule as an object of collective memory, how it fits into an institutional collection, the archivist’s work to document and recover materials in two recently discovered time capsules, and how to work with multiple institutional departments to make them accessible. It suggests best practices for time capsule discoveries and outreach.


This article was originally published in American Archivist 82, no. 2 (2019):



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