Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Time capsule project celebrating RCSI students' ambitions unveiled at No. 26 York Street

06 June 2017

RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) has today unveiled a ‘Time Capsule' art installation that aims to capture the hopes and expectations of the College's graduating class. This is the first event to take place in No. 26 York Street, RCSI's new state-of-the-art academic and educational building in Dublin city centre.

The project, by artist Vanessa Donoso López and curator Clodagh Kenny, consists of clay bullae, with each one representing an individual time capsule, unique and personalised to each student. Each capsule contains a wafer-thin etched metal scroll outlining the personal ambitions of the specific student as they transition into their careers as healthcare professionals, enabled through their education with RCSI. The clay symbolises RCSI as the custodian of education, supporting and protecting the ambitions of students from the very start of their professional journey and throughout their careers. Each capsule has been placed individually in a glass box - the boxes collectively form the two-level installation located on the lower floor of No. 26 York Street.

The clay used to make bullae came from soil gathered from three sites relevant to RCSI including: the original site of the first ever meeting of RCSI in 1780 at The Elephant Tavern in Essex Street, Dublin 2; the Rotunda Hospital, where RCSI held their meetings from 1784 until 1810 when the main RCSI building on St. Stephen's Green was opened; and the site where the new building is located on York Street.

The Time Capsule installation will remain intact over the next 40 years of the 2017 graduates' careers, until the 2057 class reunion when the bulla/ time capsules will be opened by the alumni, revealing the career and life reflections that each had when graduating back in 2017.

Final year medicine, pharmacy and physiotherapy students created their time capsules in collaboration with the artist at clay modeling workshops which took place in early 2017. Higher Degree graduates and Surgical Training graduates from the class of 2016/17 were also invited to contribute to the project.

Professor Hannah McGee, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, RCSI said: "I am delighted to unveil the Time Capsule Project in the presence of our graduating class today and it is a very fitting opening to our week of conferring celebrations. Through this project, we wish to show future generations of students and visitors to RCSI, that we cherish our students, their hopes and ambitions, and celebrate their potential."

"We believe that these graduating students will make a real difference as healthcare providers and researchers worldwide - and so the bullae remind us too as staff of the responsibility and priviledge we have as custodians of the ambitions of our students. We congratulate the artist Vanessa Donoso López and curator Clodagh Kenny for capturing this vision within such an inspiring concept," Professor McGee concluded.

The unveiling marks the start of the College's Summer Conferring Week events, which continue this evening with a special RCSI MyHealth lecture and later tonight with the Medicine Conferring Dinner. The School of Medicine Conferring Ceremony takes place tomorrow followed by the Higher Degree by Research Graduation Dinner tomorrow night. The Higher Degree Conferring Ceremony takes place on Thursday and the week's celebrations conclude with the RCSI Graduation Ball on Friday.

RCSI is ranked in the top 250 institutions worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2016-2017). It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide.

Background to the project
As a result of Denise Schmandt-Besserat excavations (1990's), evidence for the origin of rudimentary writing has been dated as far back as 8000-7000 B.C. These excavations unearthed large hollow clay balls, closed and sealed. X-ray analysis revealed they contained tokens of various designs. It was reasoned that these balls or ‘bulla' (plural: bullae) were invoices for goods that caravan leaders transported from one city to the other. Scholars believe that the written form of language that we use today evolved out of this simple accounting technique.

The invention of writing provided a highly effective means of conveying information through time but also a means of self-expression and its emergence transformed our understanding of our place in culture, history and our potential for the future.


Throughout the project artist Vanessa Donoso López used this emergence of the written word as the dawn of the accurate transfer of knowledge through time, the empowerment of individuals by access to the knowledge of the past and the enrichment of their potential that this allows.