In 1963, the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital community gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the hospital’s founding. As a gift to the future, the hospital’s leaders assembled a time capsule to be opened 50 years later during the hospital’s 100th anniversary in 2013.
At the 50th anniversary gala dinner, the time capsule was ceremonially handed over for safekeeping to J. Linzee Coolidge, the hospital’s youngest trustee, on May 30, 1963. It was placed in the vault at a bank in Boston, which agreed to send a letter to the hospital each year to remind us of the time capsule’s existence. This system worked well until the bank removed its vault, leaving the time capsule without a resting place and changing our predecessors’ careful plans.
The time capsule eventually found its way to the archives at Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library, but memories of its existence slowly faded as the years passed and staff retired. In 2009, BWH archivist Catherine Pate came across a reference to the time capsule in an old letter. She combed through the archives and rediscovered the time capsule tucked away in a box, just a few years before its scheduled opening.
Inside the time capsule, we discovered a variety of artifacts and remembrances that reflected important medical advances and hospital life. But the most memorable contents of the time capsule were a packet of letters from the hospital leaders of 1963, addressed to their counterparts in 2013. In these letters, leaders reflect on medicine at the hospital, and share their hopes and dreams for the future.