P.S. 3 capsule deeded to society at historic moment

By Albert Amateau

Notebooks and pencils in hand, 50 students from P.S. 3 in Greenwich Village went uptown to the New-York Historical Society last week for the formal installation of the 1917 time capsule found in their school in November.

The students from two fifth-grade classes shared the ceremony with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose district covers the Village, and Councilmember Gale Brewer, whose Upper West Side district includes the museum on Central Park West at 77th St.

“They’re going to have to write a report about this when they get back,” said Lisa Siegman, P.S. 3 principal, explaining why the students, ages 10 and 11, were so diligently taking notes at the Jan. 22 event.

Louise Mirrer, president and chief executive of the Historical Society, welcomed the students along with their teachers, Otis Kriegel, Adrien Siegfried and Alan Tung. Mirrer introduced Barbara Knowles Debs, a trustee of the society and a prominent educator.

The New-York Historical Society was founded in 1804, when New York was commonly spelled with a hyphen. The society collections include more than 4.5 million documents, paintings and artifacts relating to American history.

“The great thing about this city is that it has great schools like P.S. 3 and great institutions like New-York Historical Society that work together,” Brewer said.

Quinn introduced herself as the local councilmember for the P.S. 3 area and reminded the students that when the time capsule was stashed behind the bronze plaque in the P.S. 3 auditorium back in 1917, movies were silent and there was no television.

There were gasps of wonder at the very idea of no television and more gasps when Quinn noted that Walt Disney was in high school at the time, so Mickey Mouse didn’t exist yet.

“It was a great discovery but we were not equipped to handle it,” said Siegman, recalling the excitement in the school when workers renovating the auditorium uncovered the copper box with 92-year-old pictures, texts and awards.

Surrounded by students, Siegman signed a deed of gift turning the find over to the Historical Society, where it will be preserved and on view for all visitors to enjoy.

One group of fifth graders, with pencils and notebooks ready, gathered around Jessica Marino, a Historical Society guide, in front of a painting that was done around the time of the American Revolution.

“Don’t write yet. Look. Tell me what you see,” Marino told the eager young scholars. Their teacher noted that they were preparing to take a test on the Revolutionary War in their social studies class.

Saleima Pitte and Darnice Brandon, both 10 years old, told The Villager about how they and their P.S. 3 classmates replaced the 1917 time capsule with one of their own last month with letters telling children of the future about the events of today.

In her letter, Saleima told about what children of today study in school.

“I wrote about pollution,” Darnice said.

Raquel Saunders said her letter was about how the 1917 time capsule was discovered.

“Years from now people will open up your time capsule and learn that you saw the first African-American president of the United States,” Quinn told the students.