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Pieces of History: Mad About Time Capsules

Time capsule
Nevada State Museum

A time capsule found in the cornerstone of an old state building was opened this past spring by staff at the Nevada State Museum.

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Dennis McBride has been intrigued by time capsules ever since he was 11 or 12 years old. That’s when he put some of his Matchbox cars into a flower pot, and buried the flower pot in a hole. He imagines those cars are there to this day.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the concept, the idea, of leaving some little contemporary piece of yourself, of your time, and something that’s sealed away and might not be opened for a 100 years, 200 years,” McBride, the director of the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas, told KNPR's State of Nevada.

The allure of time capsules? “I suppose it’s the same reason people write books, write novels, write memoirs, build buildings and put their names on the side of the buildings. They want to leave some part of themselves unforgotten. And it’s going to be remembered at some time.”

A few weeks ago, at the State Museum, McBride and his colleagues opened a time capsule. The capsule was in the cornerstone of a state building located at Casino Center Drive and Bonanza Road, in downtown Las Vegas. Built in the mid-1950s, the Campos Building was the first State office building in southern Nevada, and housed the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation.

The building was demolished in 2008-2009 to make way for a new office building. The cornerstone – and the time capsule inside – was saved by the wrecking crew and put into storage.

This past spring, the cornerstone – with the time capsule inside - was transported to the State Museum.

“All of us gathered around down in the shop,” says McBride. “We spent probably two-and-a-half-hours first getting into the cornerstone, and then pulling the tube out.”

The time capsule – a metal cylinder - was small, about 15 inches long and four or five inches in diameter.

“What we pulled out of the time capsule was a 1955 copy of the Review-Journal, a Las Vegas Sun, a photograph of the governor, some publications about State government," says McBride.

What would Dennis McBride put in a time capsule today? He says it depends on what the message is for those who are going to open it.

"Do you want to put in all the warts and all? Bad things? Good things?” says McBride. “It depends on who you are. It depends on where you’re going to put it. There is no conventional way to plan and put together a time capsule.”

Dennis McBride, director of the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas.

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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.