September 28, 2005

Library time capsule offers glimpse of the past

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale officials today (Wednesday, Sept. 28) unearthed long-forgotten mementoes that offer a glimpse of Morris Library and the University from 50 years ago.

SIUC's former first lady Dorothy Morris, widow of late University President Delyte W. Morris, was on hand as Chancellor Walter V. Wendler, Provost and Vice Chancellor John M. Dunn and Library Affairs Dean David H. Carlson examined the contents of a time capsule placed behind the library's cornerstone on June 11, 1955. Mrs. Morris' husband and Gov. William Stratton placed the time capsule behind the cornerstone during an elaborate ceremony that also featured area politicians and many other state and University dignitaries.

Library staff learned of the existence of the time capsule this summer while reviewing historical footage of the library. The revelation prompted a search through University records and archives for its contents. Among Morris' papers was a listing of the contents of the time capsule, which includes a microfilm copy of the history of the library along with newspapers and library-related documents.

Morris served as University president from 1949 to 1970. He enlisted the help of Southern Illinois legislators, including state Rep. Paul Powell of Vienna and state Sen. R.G. Chrisenberry of Murphysboro, to persuade the legislature to appropriate $2.5 million in 1953 for construction of thenew library. Named for its leading proponent in 1958, it replaced Wheeler Library. Morris died in 1982.

The contents of the time capsule will be on display for public viewing in the Hall of Presidents inside the library's north entrance.

"The time capsule reminds us of those with vision and leadership who came before us," Wendler said. "The history of their actions shows us how much can be accomplished through a shared commitment to excellence."

Carlson is overseeing the $42 million expansion and renovation of the library, the largest capital project in the history of the University. He promised the audience that plans already are in place to install a new time capsule upon completion of the project, in three years.

"Morris Library is the crossroads of campus and the cornerstone of the University – it is a driving educational force in the state and nation," Carlson said. "The standard of excellence of Morris Library assists the University in attracting the brightest students and best scholars. The library's facilities, services and unique holdings are utilized by patrons on campus, within the region and around the world."

Also participating in today's ceremony was Janet Grimes, acting executive director of the state's Capital Development Board, which oversees state construction projects.

"On behalf of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, it's an honor to represent all of us at the Capital Development Board and others throughout state government who are working with you on this very important expansion and renovation," Grimes said. "In coming weeks, the next phase of the project will begin."

She noted that the process of selecting contractors for the construction work is under way.

"Beginning very soon, the SIU community is going to start seeing a lot of drastic changes in this building, including demolition to make way for the expansion," Grimes said. "But, in the end, after a lot of hard work, students and faculty will reap the benefits of a new 50,000-square-foot addition to the library, upgraded mechanical systems, repairs to the remaining structure and the installation of the latest information technology available."

Enhancing the library is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.