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Jane Stanford Time Capsule Contest

What was Jane thinking?

Here's your chance to speculate about what university co-founder Jane Stanford placed or should have placed into a time capsule buried under Building 160 in November 1898.

The time capsule, a copper box 6 inches high and 12 inches long, was unexpectedly uncovered last June during reconstruction of the building, which will house the Wallenberg Global Learning Center. President John Hennessy will open the capsule, which will have remained sealed for nearly 104 years, during a Community Day ceremony at the Mausoleum on April 7.

Until then, the public is invited to send in their best guesses as to what's inside.

A "Jane Stanford Time Capsule Contest," sponsored by University Communications, will award prizes in two categories: accuracy and originality. Winners in the first category will be those who come closest to describing the actual contents of the capsule. The second contest category will award prizes to the most original submissions suggesting items that Jane Stanford could or should have put inside the capsule.

The only person on the planet ineligible to enter the contest is campus archivist Maggie Kimball, said Ryan Foley, communications specialist at University Communications. Not coincidentally, Kimball, who will be contest judge, is the only person who knows what is sealed inside the box. Kimball found documentation in Jane Stanford's papers describing the capsule and its contents soon after the box was discovered and she's not telling.

"It's impossible to crack Maggie," Foley said. Kimball did offer a list of what Foley described as "obscure and not helpful hints." The hints, along with contest rules, can be found at

The website also provides would-be contest participants with historical context for the capsule, describing values set out in the university's founding grant and summing up Jane Stanford's background and character. The capsule's contents are "truly representative of the time and of Jane's feeling for the university," Kimball said.

The capsule currently is on display in the lobby of the Cantor Arts Center. Contest participants, who can submit as many guesses as they'd like, can enter submissions on the website or at the Cantor Center. All guesses must be submitted by Wednesday, April 3, 2002.

Sponsors have yet to announce a list of prizes, but Foley did say they are giving thought to prize portability. The contest could be a global one, he said. "We really hope it develops a life of its own."


By Barbara Palmer

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