As the Rotunda is currently undergoing maintenance to the ground level concrete floor, it was proposed by Head Pharmacist Brian Cleary that we lay down a time-capsule. In a building as old as ours, it is a rare event to have the floor dug up, so this was the perfect chance.
So with the permission of the former Master of Rotunda, Fergal Malone, and the go ahead from the construction company Collen Construction, Brian and his team organised a collection of items from pharmacy and the library that would best represent the times we currently face. From pharmacy, the items included an empty Moderna vaccine vial, alcohol gel, vaccination cards, photos from the hospital, two Irish Times newspapers from the week of June 30th and of course, the defining symbol of 2020, the face mask. Included also were letters from staff to their successors and descendants.
From the library, we gave a copy of the most recent Rotunda Annual Report. We also included a book written and illustrated by Una Healy called Fattening the Curves. This picture book portrays the highs and lows of our early pandemic days and brought some comedy and lightness to a stressful situation. In one hundred years, when the time-capsule is opened, this book will serve as a reminder that no matter how things turned out, uncertainty was the feeling that pervaded us all in 2020. But the book also holds another message; the funds from the sale of the book went to St Francis Hospice, who lost huge funding due to the cancellation of events during the pandemic. That generosity and charity were in the minds of people during a life-changing crisis might be helpful for people to remember.
In addition to these items, we added the One City One Book 2021 pick, Leonard and Hungry Paul. One hundred copies of this were kindly donated to the Rotunda Hospital by Dublin City Council and distributed to staff via a draw. Picked for its association to Dublin, it seemed only right to bury a copy at the heart of the city.
The items were put into a container and wrapped so as to be protected from the conditions underground. Head Librarian Anne O’Byrne and Brian Cleary attended the burial with Professor Mike Geary and a representative from Collen Construction. In addition, since the third season of The Rotunda TV series is currently being filmed, it was also attended by the film crew from Scratch Productions.
And so with that, the capsule was sealed in concrete, to lay undisturbed for one hundred years. A plague was placed on the wall low to the ground to indicate its location and instructions for its removal when the time comes.
With any luck, the practices and restrictions of 2020 will be nothing more than a page in a history book. They will feel as distant to the citizens of 2121 as the images of the 1918 pandemic felt to us.
Anne M O Byrne