Building 20 Time Capsule, 1999

Building 20 Time Capsule, 1999
Courtesy MIT Museum

Designers and builders of the Building 20 Time Capsule (left to right): Tanisha Lloyd, Sonia Tulyani, and their UROP supervisor, Professor J. Francis Reinties, 1999

Adapted from “Building 20's last engineering project: a time capsule” by Sarah H. Wright, MIT News, 8 March 1998

Building 20 was already a time capsule before it became an actual one. Rush-built during WWII, the barracks-like buildings served as the principal building in the secret "Rad Lab," an MIT-based wartime radar research effort that employed 4,000 people and at its peak occupied 15 acres of floor space. City officials exempted Building 20 from building codes, as it was supposed to be torn down once the war was over.

It stood for another fifty years, until finally being torn down in 1999 to make way for the Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences (designed by Frank Gehry-designed, funded by Bill Gates). Out of this building came technologies that revolutionized the world of communications. It contained faculty offices until it was torn down, including the office for Noam Chomsky.

In true MIT style, the question of what to with Building 20 became a problem and the problem became a set for Tanisha L. Lloyd ’99 and Sonia Tulyani ’00. Supervised by Prof. Emeritus, J. Francis Reinties from 1998 to 1999, the students designed and constructed a time capsule that can withstand a variety of conditions.

Lloyd, a junior in mechanical engineering who aspires to be an inventor, says:

It was a project that would enable me to apply some of the design skills I learned from my mechanical engineering courses...I want future students and faculty to get a sense of the history, not only by what is contained in the time capsule, but also from its exterior design.

While MIT has at least 10 time capsules around the campus, Lloyd’s and Tulyani’s is the first to be completely built, designed, and filled by students.

Contents included: Building 20 floorboard, RadLab reunion book, 1998 photo of construction site in 1998, list of major donors to the new complex, news media, video of "Good Will Hunting," and instructions on how to deal, and instructions on how to deal, in 2053, with the 1998 electronic media contained in the box, and photographs of Lloyd, Tulyani, and Prof. Reintjes.

The capsule is located in Stata and is to be opened in 2053, 55 years after Bldg. 20 was demolished.  Though designed for burial, the capsule is kept in a glass case with an electronic counter on the outside that counts down towards opening day.

Timeline: 1990s
School: School of Engineering
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Career: Engineering
Object: Image
Collection: Exhibits, MIT Rad Lab, Order of Operations 1921-1945, Pop Culture, Rising Voices 1995-Present, Students, Women