On January 13th, 20011, memorabilia hidden inside two Hurley Medical Center time capsules, buried 84 and 104 years ago, were unveiled to the public at a Sloan Museum fundraiser entitled “A Moment in Time.” The special evening event was attended by hundreds of Hurley employees, family members, Board Members, physicians, and elected officials, including U.S. Congressman Dale Kildee and Mayor Dayne Walling. Family members of Paul F. Reinhart also attended. All proceeds from “A Moment in Time” benefited the Paul F. Reinhart Emergency Trauma Center.
Sharon Williams, Hurley Medical Center’s Medical Library Director, in consultation with Jane McIntosh, Sloan Museum Curator of Collections, oversaw the formal opening of the two sealed boxes. “We are touching the past and the past is touching the future,” remarked McIntosh. “It’s a way of seeing what people in the past thought was important for us to know of them.”
Discovered by construction crews
Discovered by construction crews working on Hurley Medical Center’s Emergency Department expansion project, the time capsules from 1907 and 1927 were unearthed near Hurley’s original West Tower hospital entrance in July, 2010, encased in cornerstones approximately two feet under the surface. One cornerstone is dated 1907, just before Hurley Hospital first opened its doors to the public in 1908. The other cornerstone is dated 1907-1927, when Hurley was building two additional wings to meet Flint’s increased demand for healthcare in the 1920s.
Inside the time capsules were several important paper items including financial documents, the City of Flint’s City Charter, newspapers, and the will of James J. Hurley, whose estate in 1905 gave land and $55,000 to establish Hurley Hospital. The items focused on the hospital’s early years and subsequent development.
“None of the papers ripped; they aged well,” observed Williams. “One cornerstone had been recorded, but finding the other one was a surprise,” she said. Williams will be responsible for maintaining and displaying the contents of the time capsules as part of the Medical Library’s growing historical collection.
The older time capsule, from 1907, was a copper box approximately 10 inches long and 6 inches wide; the more recent one from 1927 had a wax covering over the box, believed to be copper, and measured 18 inches long and 5 inches wide. Both were originally opened two weeks before the unveiling ceremony to inspect and catalogue the items. The boxes had been welded shut and officials did not know if harmful chemicals such as iron or mercury were inside.
“The practice of encasing time capsules is not as prevalent today because the construction of buildings isn’t as socially important,” McIntosh said. Nevertheless, Hurley Medical Center created a new time capsule in 2008 to commemorate its 100-year anniversary, placing items such as scalpels and pacemakers inside.