Time capsule reveals 87-year-old snapshot of former P.E.I. Hospital

An 87-year-old time capsule was opened in Charlottetown that was discovered in the former Prince Edward Island Hospital, revealing a glimpse into the historic facility's past.

'Probably in spite of tough economic conditions ... they were proud of this deco-style building'

Several copies of the program for the laying of the cornerstone at the former Prince Edward Island Hospital were found with the metal time capsule container. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

An 87-year-old time capsule from the former Prince Edward Island Hospital in Charlottetown was opened on Thursday, to reveal that water had damaged much of the paper materials inside a sealed metal container.

The capsule was found during demolition work on the decommissioned facility that was originally built in 1932.

Workers discovered the sealed metal time capsule, as well as several other items, underneath the cornerstone near the main entrance.

The paper materials were on display while they waited to open up the sealed metal container for the first time. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

A newspaper article from 1932 spoke of the cornerstone ceremony that was to be held, as well as the documents contained inside the capsule.

"Unfortunately in a sense much of that will be paper material and as we see that there has been some decomposition because there was moisture inside the box," said David Keenlyside, the executive director of P.E.I.'s Museum and Heritage Foundation.

"But our conservator hopefully ... will be able to recover many of those items." 

Inside there were many documents including newspaper clippings, staff lists, and other papers documenting the history of the old hospital.

Keenlyside says the metal container was sealed, but condensation could have accounted for the water getting inside. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Outside of the metal container, were several copies of the program for laying the cornerstone, dated Oct. 10, 1932, a book and a copy of the Summerside Journal newspaper from Oct. 3, 1932.

They were in better condition than the paper documents from the metal container.

The P.E.I. Hospital was completed in 1933. At the time, it was the first public general hospital and largest health-care facility on the Island.

Isabel MacCallum Court takes a photos of the water damaged documents that came out of the metal time capsule during the opening ceremony on Thursday. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

There were also some retired nurses at the ceremony to catch a glimpse of the history of a building that was important in their lives and for the province as a whole.

"Anybody in your family or your community, you often knew people that came here for care and treatment how important the hospital was for all the events in people's lives," said Isabel MacCallum Court, who was also a graduate of the P.E.I. Hospital School of Nursing. 

"This was the place that you came."

The time capsule was located during demolition work in a small space underneath the cornerstone of the former Prince Edward Island Hospital. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Keenlyside said despite the damaged papers, it was still an important discovery from the historic Charlottetown site.

"I find time capsules interesting themselves because it's those people of the day looking forward, looking to the future and saying look, this is what we accomplished in 1932," Keenlyside said.

"Probably in spite of tough economic conditions and so on but they were proud of this deco-style building and it was obviously a major step forward in health services for the province."

The demolition work is underway at the 87-year-old building in Charlottetown. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The province is planning to rip up the asphalt and turn the area into a green space.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Sarah MacMillan


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