The mystery surrounding a 1992 time capsule discovered at the Alberni Valley Museum has been solved.
The heavy metal box sat forgotten on a shelf at the museum for more than two decades, an engraved plaque on the top and a folded letter taped in plastic to the front of the box the only record of what it is. The letter had an agreement between the museum and a student to hold the capsule in safe storage until 2017, “or until requested for its return, in writing, by Meghan O’Brien, 1992 graduating class member.”
The inscription on top of the box reads “Memories in time; graduating class of ‘92; to be opened 2017.”
Museum curator Kirsten Smith discovered the box when a new vertical storage system was installed in the museum a few years ago, and everything on the old shelves was inspected and moved.
“We just found it on a shelf. Not being an artifact, it wasn’t catalogued. There’s a letter saying we agreed to store it,” she said.
The mystery continued when Smith was unable to find the student who had signed the letter: Meghan O’Brien. Former museum manager Jean McIntosh, who also signed the letter, didn’t know how to reach O’Brien, and Smith didn’t know whether the young woman still lived in town, had kept the same last name or not.
After the Alberni Valley News published a story on its website last Thursday, the post was shared numerous times and reached more than 4,000 people—including Meghan O’Brien, who now goes by Meg Unger and is a special education teacher in Langley.
“I hadn’t forgotten it entirely,” Unger said. “Thank God for social media. My Facebook lit up (Thursday).”
Unger got the idea for the time capsule from her late mother, Gayle O’Brien, a well known community advocate and volunteer. Unger, part of teacher Geoff Stubbs’ first media club, ordered a second yearbook on her mother’s advice and went around to the graduates that year asking people to sign it for posterity.
“My mom thought it would be kind of cool to do and I listened to her.
“I told people it was for a time capsule, but I didn’t make a big deal of it. I think there’s likely a VHS tape from our media club. I think Jenny Mossey might have helped with the video, but we’ve since lost touch,” Unger said.
“It was also the year of the BC Summer Games and I put in some related things.” She vaguely recalls going to city hall and asking for something for the capsule, possibly a city flag or pins.
She put all the items into a plastic Rubbermaid container, then metalworks teacher Bob Waldhaus created a metal box for the outside: brushed metal, sealed, 17 inches long by 12 inches wide and 6.5 inches deep with the engraved plaque on top that Unger said she thought students provided.
The story of the time capsule has brought back some nice memories of her mother, who passed away 17 years ago, and the friends with whom Unger graduated. Unger has been gone from the Alberni Valley since 1998, except for two years after her mother’s death when she taught Learning Assistance at Haahuupayak School. Her husband couldn’t find work in Port Alberni so they moved back to the Lower Mainland and Unger has been teaching there ever since.
Plans for the Class of ‘92’s reunion are still up in the air, but Unger will be in town for the Aug. 5 long weekend and says she will make arrangements to open the time capsule then. The museum has agreed to hold onto it until she returns. The contents will remain a mystery until then.
“I wish I could tell you there’s something amazing in there, but I don’t know.”