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Time encapsulated at the RSA

Preserved in a small bound volume of selected manuscript minutes is an account of a truly memorable day in the history of the Society, 28th March 1772. This was the occasion when the foundation stones for the Society’s future and present home were laid.

Following the inaugural meeting in Rawthmell’s Coffee House, in 1754 the Society’s membership steadily increased and were forced to find a succession of larger rented accommodation. Then on the 30th October 1771 the Adam brothers, Robert, William and James presented their plan to build a prominent building situated between the Strand and the River Thames.

John Phillips, the Adams’ building contractor, describes in detail the contents of the two timecapsules placed under the west and east foundation stones of the building…

‘…A Printed List of the Members of the Society, a Printed Book of the Rules and Orders… lists of the president and Vice presidents… an elevation of the Front of the Building, together with the Medal and two pallets of the Society in Copper, a Two Guinea Piece, a Guinea, a half Guinea, a Quarter Guinea, four Shilling, a half penny and farthing coined during the Reign of his present Majesty wrapt in Tin Foil were enclosed’.

His account also lists who was present, that Lord Romney, President, was the person who placed the first foundation stone and the celebration at the Adelphi Tavern that followed.

This was the starting point for the RSA Archive’s Explore Your Archive project, to produce digital versions of items buried in the 18th Century timecapsule and to include what would constitute the best content from today’s RSA in a 21 Century digital timecapsule.   

Find out more about the Explore your Archive campaign

RSA Arrow Vale Academy timecapsule

Engagement with communities that connect to the RSA Archive was also a part of the campaign and Sixth formers from the RSA Arrow Vale Academy in Redditch were keen to participate in the project.

Using the 1772 document as a starting point and following much discussion the students decided to create a physical timecapsule and bury it in the school grounds. Their aim was to reflect modern life, their school and local community by the choice of the items they selected.

The contents of the capsule were photographed, written explanations of their choices were included and on Thursday 21st November 2013 the capsule was buried in the school grounds in a ceremony covered by the local press. To mark the occasion and identify where the timecapsule was buried a plaque was attached to a wall at the site to record the event.

RSA Arrow Vale Academy timecapsule