Meadville's Diamond Park will soon have a new resident — one buried beneath the earth and not scheduled to see the light of day again until 2071.
A dedication ceremony was held Wednesday in the park, commemorating a time capsule meant to pass down to future generations the experiences of Meadville amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The time capsule has been a long-time project by the Meadville Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Board and Crawford Central School District.
Inside the capsule are more than 150 submissions from students, businesses, organizations and others. Using a mixture of argon gas and a substance called hexamethylenetetramine, the objects inside will be preserved during their years underground, ensuring they won't have aged much despite the half-century that will have passed.
Commemorating this momentous occasion were various members of the Meadville community and beyond. The event even garnered a letter from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, which was read by Armendia Dixon, one of the organizers of the time capsule project and director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mentoring Program.
"As Governor, and on behalf of all citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I am honored to take part in preserving our history through this time capsule," the letter read. "Please accept my best wishes for future success."
There were figures more locally recognized as well, including Crawford County Commissioner Eric Henry, Crawford Central Superintendent Tom Washington and Allegheny College President Hilary Link. Throughout the ceremony, songs were performed by Meadville Area Senior High's marching band and a cappella group MASHappella.
Meadville Mayor LeRoy Stearns read a proclamation on behalf of Meadville City Council to note the occasion. The proclamation praised the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund for creating a project that commemorated "the trials and successes not only of their own students but the entire beloved Meadville community during the COVID-19 pandemic."
Henry, to show what a difference 50 years can make, used his time to speak to touch on the matters which were important to the Crawford County commissioners 50 years ago, in 1971. The items of business for the commissioners in that year included the purchase of a new round baler for $975; the auction of 22 hogs and four cattle to hopefully generate $2,500 of sales; and dealing with a notification from the state that the Crawford County Care Center was required to have a nurse on the premises at all times.
Link read from a letter she wrote to the students of 2071 which was included in the capsule. She encouraged the students to consider the value of viewpoints not their own; embrace education to explore and find joy in different fields of study; and to develop new perspectives to become problem solvers.
"Remember that you are society's greatest asset, and your commitment to making a positive difference is the world's greatest hope," Link said. "Here in 2021, we cannot know what the world will look like in 50 years, but we should not be complacent in the face of the unknown."
Joe Galbon, vice president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund, called the time capsule a "constant reminder of the mettle and perseverance" of the Meadville community during the pandemic.
Dixon, in closing the ceremony, pushed for the attendees to remember the day of the dedication and keep the time capsule on their minds.
"In conclusion, remember that now, in the veil of French Creek Valley, Diamond Park, in the fork leading to South Main Street, there is a time capsule awaiting 2071," she said.
She asked that when those who attended the dedication visit Diamond Park, they remember the sounds of the marching band and MASHapella, hear the voices of those who spoke, and recall the ceremony in is entirety.
The time capsule will not be fully buried until an as-of-yet undetermined time today or Friday by Meadville Public Works. However, many of those involved in the project got the chance to make the first dig into the ground at Wednesday's ceremony, and laid the first few clumps of dirt atop the 27-cubic-foot box.
Multiple layers make up the capsule, containing myriad items from various sources. Meadville Fire Department, for example, submitted a fireman's hat signed by members of the department, while Meadville Medical Center submitted a face shield and homemade masks so common during the pandemic.
The business Ernst Seeds submitted a letter to the president of the company in 2071, and various copies of The Meadville Tribune are in the time capsule as well. Students from all Crawford Central Schools made a variety of submissions.
Dixon, speaking with the Tribune after the dedication, said when the project began she initially wasn't sure the organizers would be able to fill the entire time capsule. Instead, it's "full to the brim," a sign in her eyes of how the community can come together.
"I'm just thankful," Dixon said. "But it's Meadville. This is the beloved community I know."
In the view of Christopher Seeley, one of the co-chairs on the time capsule committee, the project will not truly be done until it is opened back up on Oct. 13, 2071. He hopes to live long enough to make it to that date, but regardless believes the project has been a success and will impress the Meadville community of that decade.
"I think our legacy will be a strong one when they pop it open," he said.
A plaque will be placed over the burial site of the time capsule once it is buried. The spot in question is located on the southern end of the park, just after the sidewalk that runs through the middle of the park forks into two paths that flank the Crawford County Soldiers' Memorial Monument.
Sean P. Ray can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.