About

Time capsules offer the unique opportunity to capture a snapshot of an era while imagining possible futures. On this landmark anniversary, over 50 of McGill’s top researchers pause to envisage what will be the biggest change in their field over the next quarter century. At the end of 2021, the Time Capsule will be sealed. Five videos from the Time Capsule will be released on this website every year during Fall Homecoming starting in 2022. Only time will tell if McGill researchers’ predictions come true.

McGill Time Capsules

While the Bicentennial project is McGill’s first digital time capsule, it’s not the first time that McGillians have wanted to leave a historic cache of information for future generations:

  • In 2003, a McGill campus security officer spotted a time capsule container in the rubble of the recently demolished Donner Building. The capsule, which was buried in the building’s cornerstone in 1947 and subsequently forgotten about, contained stained but still legible documents, including the letter written by William H. Donner outlining his gift to McGill (details here).
  • In March 2017, construction workers unexpectedly discovered a seven-inch by five-inch lead box during renovations of the Roddick Gates, containing moldy, mostly illegible newspaper clippings. Buried sometime in 1924 or 1925 during the original construction of the Gates, little else is known about the time capsule’s origins (details here).
  • In May 2017, two time capsules, one made of Teflon and the other made of stainless steel, were installed inside the Roddick Gates as renovation work entered its final phase. Initiated by Allan Oliver, a long-time veteran of McGill’s HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) unit, the time capsules contained a variety of items, ranging from McGill pins to handwritten letters (details here).

Preserving Digital Video

In this digital age, time capsules no longer need to be buried underground, they can be concealed in the virtual cloud instead. However, like paper documents, digital video files can also degrade over time. To ensure that the Bicentennial Digital Time Capsule videos are preserved and protected, videos have been provided to the McGill University Archives in mp4 file format – a standard video format – for safekeeping. McGill’s archivists will keep copies of each video physically in two secure locations. The copies will also be stored on a secure server. As technology changes, our archivists will ensure the videos remain playable by periodically converting the files to the most relevant format.

Project Partners

The Bicentennial Digital Time Capsule project is led by Research and Innovation with production services carried out by the Video Production unit in the Communications and External Relations.

Translation

Professional translation of the videos in the Bicentennial Digital Time Capsule project from English into French is underway. While the majority are already translated, please note translation has not yet been provided for several of the most recently added videos.