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Unexpected Find: Time Capsule at Old State Hospital Site

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Newspapers included in a time capsule buried of the Bahr Treatment Center of the state hospital. It was recovered this summer. Fifty-seven years after it was buried, a time capsule was discovered on the grounds of the old Indiana state hospital on the west side of Indianapolis. It was placed there July 23, 1958.

“We had no clue” it was there, said Derek Naber, a project manager for the city’s metropolitan development department.

News footage from the groundbreaking ceremony for the Bahr Treatment Center was included in the capsule. It shows elected officials and hospital executives talking about what finders of the capsule will know about successes and failures of medical research done at the hospital.

It contains a film with a message to the future–a message about electroshock therapy and psychiatric drugs.

Frustratingly, much of the audio from the film has been lost. What were they saying in the damaged parts of the film? Was it a warning? Did they know something that we don’t?!?!

“When the psychiatrists of the future open this time capsule, only they will be able to tell how well we’ve solved our treatment problems,” one unnamed man says to the camera near the end of the 6-minute movie.

“You could tell from some of the audio their intention was to put a time capsule so that when the building was demolished they would find out why they were doing this, why they were building this building, why were they doing the things they were doing at Central State in terms of treatment for patients,” Naber said. “And it’s just fascinating to see their thinking and logic at that time.”

The hospital the Bahr building was a part of is now closed, shuttered in 1992. The site is being converted to residential and business grounds . Some historical structures have been preserved and will remain.

The capsule was full of news coverage and speeches given at the ceremony. Newspapers from that day placed in the capsule show headlines of a United Nations summit on Lebanon. There are also pictures of the building and grounds and transcripts of remarks made by former Gov. Harold Handley and hospital officials.

Television news footage found in the capsule:

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