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The 1919 time capsule and duplicates of the contents that were placed inside it.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture hosted a high-spirited centennial celebration of historic Morgan Hall earlier this month, with UT System President Randy Boyd, Chancellor Donde Plowman, Senior Vice President and Senior Vice Chancellor Tim Cross, and the UT campus community.

Much of the excitement at the Morgan Hall Centennial Celebration focused on the unveiling of the building’s 1919 time capsule and its contents. Alesha Shumar, university archivist and assistant head of University Libraries’ Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections, was present to display the materials and answer questions along with senior library associate Rebecca Becker.

Alesha Shumar, right, assistant head and university archivist with the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections, and senior library associate Rebecca Becker display the 1919 time capsule and duplicates of the contents that were placed inside it.
Shumar, right, and Becker, left, display the 1919 time capsule and duplicates of the contents that were placed inside it.

Shumar noted that a small crack in the solder that sealed the time capsule’s copper housing had admitted moisture, which caused much of the capsule’s contents to disintegrate. However, because the contents were widely reported in 1919, Shumar was able to bring duplicate copies of many of the materials from the Special Collections’ holdings. These included copies of the UT Register course catalog; the Orange and White student newspaper; the UT Farmer, a publication of the Agricultural Club; a copy of the appropriation bill that funded the building; and photos of former UT presidents Brown Ayres and Harcourt Morgan, among other items.

A Landmark Building

The funding that supported Morgan Hall’s construction and several other campus projects came from an unprecedented $1 million appropriation by the Tennessee legislature in 1917. The funds marked the beginning of an era of increased public support and financial stability for the university, both of which were vital to its future growth.

Construction of the new building began in 1919. In a ceremony held during Homecoming weekend, then President Morgan’s young son laid the building’s cornerstone, and a time capsule was placed behind it.

Originally known as Agricultural Hall, the building was formally dedicated on June 6, 1921, bringing the university’s diverse agricultural programs together under one roof.

Five descendants of Morgan—UT’s 13th president, for whom the building was named in 1937—were guests of honor at the centennial celebration. They included granddaughters Lucy Faye Morgan Hinds (’65) and Sarah Lanier Davis, who was present with her husband, Phil Davis; and great-grandson Jason Hinds, who was present with his wife, Brandy, and the couple’s children, Morgan’s great-great-granddaughters Jacy and Kaly.

Morgan Hall is notable for its architecture. The four-story building’s arched recessed doorways, grouped casement windows, and buttresses are forerunners of today’s collegiate Gothic style of architecture. The graceful style characterizes the Student Union and residence halls, among other recently constructed campus buildings.

During the centennial celebration, Cross identified another point of significance about the building. Despite the sweeping changes that have occurred in science, society, and the world since 1921, the core purpose of Morgan Hall—and of UT’s agricultural programs—remains constant: to serve and advance the farmers, rural communities, and people of Tennessee.

“This brings us to our mission as a land-grant institution,” Cross said to those gathered. “Morgan Hall is deeply entwined in that mission, if not a hallmark of it, because of the building’s history of service.”

A New Time Capsule for 2121

A centennial celebration doesn’t seem fitting without a new time capsule. Members within UTIA asked the university’s Tickle College of Engineering for assistance in fabricating a new capsule capable of surviving the next century. Space behind Morgan Hall’s cornerstone is limited, and the new capsule had to have the exact dimensions of the original: 11½ by 5¾ by 5¾ inches.

From left are Greg Corson, Ross Zameroski, and Josh Penney with associate professor Bradley Jared.
From left are Greg Corson, Ross Zameroski, and Josh Penney with associate professor Bradley Jared.

Students and faculty in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering accepted the challenge to design and fabricate a new capsule. The 10-member team was led by PhD students Greg Corson, Josh Penney, and Ross Zameroski and drew upon the resources of the UT Machine Tool Research Center. The team used five-axis CNC machining combined with robotic welding to transform stainless steel plates into the custom-engraved capsule body. Internal joints were coated with a silicone sealant, and a three-layer lid and water-jet-cut rubber gasket sealed the capsule using 12 bolts. The resulting capsule, the team believes, is well positioned to remain both air- and water-tight across a century or more.

New Capsule Contents

Cross wanted items placed in the new capsule to convey what the present-day institute is like. Employees were invited to share their ideas of what to include, and a COVID mask topped the list. Contents selected to be placed inside the new capsule are:

  • The program from the centennial celebration and a list of those attending
  • A fact sheet about UTIA and its four units: AgResearch, UT Extension, the Herbert College of Agriculture, and the College of Veterinary Medicine
  • An orange COVID mask printed with the institute’s wordmark and brand: “Real. Life. Solutions.”
  • A published interview with the institute’s inaugural director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Craig Pickett
  • A UTIA lapel pin
  • A UTIA Smith Center for Sustainable International Agriculture luggage tag
  • An engraved wooden “Together We Grow” ornament in honor of UTIA’s record-setting capital campaign
  • A card detailing AgResearch’s strategic impacts
  • A list of 2021 Field Days
  • An overview of the UT System-wide One Health Initiative and UTIA member roles
  • A sheet describing UT Extension and identifying its leadership, mission, vision, core values, and organizational principles
  • A Transforming Tennessee lapel pin to mark the 2010 centennial of UT Extension
  • A bookmark describing UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences
  • An overview of a USDA initiative to create a farm and ranch stress assistance network, whose southern region leader is Associate Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences Heather Sedges
  • A brochure announcing the naming of Herbert College of Agriculture and the naming’s significance
  • An orange-and-white Herbert College of Agriculture scarf
  • A brochure about the Tennessee 4-H youth development program
  • A 4-H blue ribbon
  • A 4-H clover lapel pin
  • A fact sheet on impacts of the College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Two 3D-printed biomaterial devices used for bone and nerve tissue regeneration
  • A 3D-printed surgical guide used to treat atlantoaxial instability in canines
  • A commemorative College of Veterinary Medicine coin
  • Pint and quart milk tokens from the original UT Creamery to commemorate the new creamery, expected to open in the near future
  • A document explaining how the 2021 time capsule was manufactured
  • A certificate of appreciation to the past and future caretakers of Morgan Hall and to the skilled craftsmen who constructed such an enduring building, signed by the members of Facilities Operations and Landscape Services who currently care for the building and its grounds
  • A photo from the 1919 cornerstone laying that shows some of the building’s construction workers
  • A Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation centennial lapel pin, presented by TFBF President Jeff Aiken
  • A card that lists and explains the Be One UT values developed for the university, presented by UT System President Randy Boyd
  • A 3D-printed University of Tennessee seal, also presented by Boyd
  • A sheet identifying the Volunteer Principles for Leading with Courage, which were formulated to guide UT Knoxville during the pandemic, presented by Chancellor Donde Plowman

A duplicate set of these items will be shared with Special Collections to preserve. Between that set and the sophisticated engineering of the new time capsule, it is hoped that these items from 2021 will be well intact when future generations of faculty, staff, and students open the time capsule 100 years from now.


Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375,

Margeaux Emery (865-974-7374,