Have you ever read one of those human interest stories about a person who, while renovating a home or building, discovers a cache of papers or mementoes from a bygone age? Usually, it’s something like a page from an old newspaper, an uncashed cheque, or a long-forgotten document related to the home’s origins or a previous owner. Who knows what a wide array of cultural artifacts and treasures lurk just beneath the walls and floorboards of many homes – especially old properties. Some will be discovered and some may never be seen. For the person who stumbles upon them, however, it can be like finding a window into another time.
In a small way, we have been working on our own “culture cache” at Matthews Hall – our time capsule project, which will be sealed behind a commemorative bronze plaque that will mark the official opening of our school’s new addition. While our “time travel” project had begun before the arrival of last year’s emergency closure, we are just now putting the finishing touches on the contents that will chronicle the experiences of our students, school, community, and world during our recent construction project. Not surprisingly, it will have significant content related to our “long day’s journey” into a global public health crisis.
During my own search for worthy content to include, I made a unique discovery this week.
In the far corners of our school’s basement, I opened an old, dusty box that could easily have been discarded. When I flipped the lid, I found a treasure trove of our school’s original documents, including Kate Matthews’ handwriting, our first original letters patent, various school pins, an old tattered kilt, and the legal papers from the sale of our various school buildings, including our current property here on Oxford Street. Mixed in were minutes from meetings, balance sheets and budgets (…those were fun to review!), and the thoughts and considerations of the people who really wanted Miss Matthews’ School to thrive and last. It will take me a while to sift through all of the fragile yellow paper, but I certainly will take the time to do it.
When we are long gone and another generation of Matthews Hall governors, teachers, students, and families opens the seal on our time capsule or discovers a dusty box in a corner somewhere, I hope they will be equally intrigued, impressed, and reflective. It’s not the Dead Sea Scrolls or Magna Carta, but, in our own small way, we are leaving a time stamp that will shed some light on the triumphs and challenges of life in 2020 – and that our school cared enough to preserve them during a time that has not been especially easy for anyone.
If people stumble on our cache on some future date, let’s hope they will be able to see, then as now, that the essence of our work with children at Miss Matthews’ School has stood the test of time!