By: Spencer Bowman, Bicentennial Intern, Class of 2020, English and Media, Bloomington
In April of 1922, then president of Indiana University William Lowe Bryan spoke at the dedication ceremony for the university’s centennial time capsule: “The people of 1822 could not dream the greatness 100 years would bring to the school they were founding.
They did the best in their day. We must do our best in our day. And a greater city and a university far beyond our dreams will meet on April 17, 2022.”  It’s a nice quote, but as part of the team tasked with finding this nowmissing time capsule,
I can’t help but wish he followed it up with exact coordinates of the burial location. It would certainly make this treasure hunt a whole lot easier.
As an IU Bicentennial intern, I work with a team whose mission is two-fold: research the IU centennial time capsule buried somewhere on IU’s original campus in Seminary Square and develop a plan for the Bicentennial time capsule to be buried in 2020.
The two tasks may seem largely independent from one another, but in doing the work, I have been surprised to see how my thoughts of the past, present, and future of IU inform one another. Because of this internship, I have thought about IU in ways I never thought I would and I have explored a rather offbeat corner of the university’s history.
To tell you about the research of the 1922 time capsule our team has done so far, a brief history lesson first might be helpful. Four years after Indiana was admitted to the United States, the state’s General Assembly voted to establish a state seminary on January 20, 1820—a date now known as Founders Day, and the date we will celebrate as IU’s 200th birthday in 2020.
Two years later, in 1822, construction began on the first two campus buildings: the Seminary Building and the Professors’ House. A bit of confusion comes about in the 20th century, when the administration celebrated 100 years since the beginning of construction, to be the university’s “birthday,” while in 2020 we will be celebrating two centuries since the law passes which established the university.
On April 17th, 1922, then-president William Lowe Bryan placed a hermetically sealed tablet with “University valuables” at the spot “which marked the entrance to the chapel on the south side of the [Seminary Building],” according to a 1922 article in The Indiana Alumnus. This is where things get tricky for our search.
The university sold Seminary Square to the city in 1897, who then used the land to establish a park which would memorialize the location of the original campus.
I contacted the city of Bloomington, who partnered with IU for a Seminary Plaza construction project in 1996, but was told that nothing of interested (such as a time capsule, perhaps) was unearthed during construction. One of many dead ends on this unique treasure hunt.
Fortunately, we weren’t the only people interested in finding this missing tablet from almost a century ago. A 2015 Hotline column in The Herald-Times suggested that the capsule could be buried near what is now the Wendy’s on 2nd Street, as that land was at one point part of the original state seminary campus. 
Additionally, a retired IU professor, Dr. James Weigand (now deceased) took a keen interest in searching for the time capsule years ago, and frequently prodded Bloomington Parks and Recreation to contact Seminary Plaza Kroger—which, like Wendy’s, now sits on what used to be the original campus—to see if they would allow an investigation under their property.
According to Dave Williams of Bloomington Parks and Recreation, the department stayed out of the situation, as they long ago sold the property to Kroger and no longer had a stake in the matter, but Dr. Weigand claimed that he had information which suggested the time capsule was buried under what is now the butcher’s area in the Seminary Plaza Kroger. You’re starting to see why we’ve been running into trouble.
It wasn’t all dead ends, however. Our search did seem to back up Dr. Weigand’s old claim of the time capsule being under the Seminary Plaza Kroger. There may be some variation between sources on the specific location—under the butcher’s area, parking lot, or the neighboring Wendy’s—but we still have a relatively narrow area in which we can transition from a historical, research based investigation to a more investigative search.
A partnership between the Office of the Bicentennial and the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology, may be in the works to begin an archaeological dig of IU’s original campus. There is no evidence that the time capsule has already been recovered, so I have high hopes that the centennial time capsule will be recovered before 2022, a century after it was buried.
For part two of this blog, please visit: https://blogs.iu.edu/bicentennialblogs/2017/04/14/my-semester-as-a-treasure-hunting-time-traveler-part-2/
 “I.U.’s First Building Memorialized.” The Indiana Alumnus, August 5, 1922. Pg. 7
 “Capsule may be hard to dig up” Hotline column, Herald-Times, May 25, 2015 http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/news/opinion/hotline-signs-and-the-seminary-park-time-capsule/article_165728c8-3717-559e-b5e2-12744486d247.html