Department of Pediatrics Sends Artifacts 100 Years into the Future

Time Capsule to Be Buried Later This Year

A little over a century ago, Cincinnati philanthropist and hospital benefactor Mary Emery helped to support the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’s (UCCOM) Department of Pediatrics through a gift of $250,000, which equates to more than $3.3 million in today’s dollars. At her request, the department was officially named in honor of her longtime friend and former chair of the department from 1901-1920, Benjamin Knox Rachford, MD. By 1926, UC and Children’s Hospital, today known as Cincinnati Children’s, would affiliate. The college’s pediatrics department would be comprised of the physicians and researchers at Cincinnati Children’s, who would hold UC academic appointments. This past year, the current B.K. Rachford Chair, Tina Cheng, MD, MPH, felt it was important to mark this momentous milestone with several planned initiatives, including a virtual speaker series entitled "Envisioning Our Future for Children," a one-day virtual symposium, and, as the culmination, a commemorative time capsule. “Collectively, we have made important contributions to child health in our missions in clinical care, research, education, and community/advocacy work,” says Cheng, who is also director of the Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation (CCRF) and chief medical officer of Cincinnati Children’s.

Preserving Our Present Day

Created for members of the Cincinnati Children’s and UCCOM community 100 years in the future, the time capsule project aimed to memorialize the collective experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as highlight major accomplishments over the last five years. “It is also a momentous time in history as we are facing a pandemic and planning for the future amid many societal shifts,” Cheng adds. “It seemed like a good time to commemorate what we are going through now.” Led by Cincinnati Children’s Chief of Staff, Patty Manning, MD, more than 40 groups from each partner institution played a significant role in selecting the contents of the time capsule, which include a variety of things, such as:

  • COVID-19 pandemic-related items, e.g., Pfizer and Moderna vaccine vials, masks, clinical trial advertisements, building signage, informational videos, and more
  • An official proclamation signed by City of Cincinnati Mayor, John Cranley, proclaiming June 8, 2021, as “B.K. Rachford Department of Pediatrics Day” in recognition of the department's 100th birthday
  • A 3D heart model
  • An implantable cardioverter defibrillator
  • A genotyping chip
  • Children’s books
  • Promotional materials, such as a telehealth brochure, Cincinnati Children’s fact sheet, and cards describing each of the three Child Life facility dogs
  • Flash drives with photos and videos, including ones developed for the 100th anniversary symposium that took place on June 8, 2021
  • Various mementos, such as commemorative pins, lanyards, and pens
  • Research-related publications, including the FY2020 annual report and back issues of Research Horizons magazines
  • Copies of prominent research articles, award recognitions, organizational charts, and divisional overviews
  • And, many more unique items

Reflecting on Our Past

This is not the first time that Cincinnati Children’s has buried a time capsule. On Dec. 30, 1925, several hospital leaders, philanthropists, clergy, and construction workers gathered for an official ceremony to mark the laying of the cornerstone for the new 200-bed Children’s Hospital building next to the UCCOM. As part of this ceremony, they enclosed several artifacts in a time capsule, including a bible, the Book of Common Prayer, photos of the previous hospital buildings, a history of the hospital, and an address given at the cornerstone laying of the second hospital building in 1887 (see the photo below).

Among the contents, another photo shows William Cooper Procter, who, at the time, was president of Procter & Gamble and chair of the hospital’s Board of Trustees. Procter firmly believed that Children’s Hospital’s ability to thrive depended on a strong academic affiliation with the UCCOM, as it would allow the organization to attract the best and brightest talent. Soon after, as construction on the new Children’s Hospital was nearing completion, the relationship between Cincinnati Children's and the UCCOM became official upon execution of an affiliation agreement (pictured). It was further strengthened by a transformational $2.5 million endowment from Procter in 1928, which helped paved the way for the organization to become a global leader in child health. Nearly a century later and countless achievements that changed the outcome for millions of children around the world, this same time capsule was unearthed and opened at a ceremony marking the official closing of the 1926 hospital on October 24, 2003. The 1926 time capsule items are stored in the Cincinnati Children’s archives, in the Mitchell-Nelson Library, on the third level of Location-R. The organization’s archives team has been instrumental in helping to preserve and promote various artifacts and moments in history.

A few of the items that were buried in the original time capsule on Dec. 25, 1925.

A close-up view of the photo buried in the time capsule. William Cooper Procter, chair of the Board of Trustees, can be seen (center) at the laying of the cornerstone of the new Children's Hospital in December 1925.

Our Role in “Their” Future

The contents of the 2021 time capsule are currently on display near the southeast entrance of Location T, on Level 2. Current members of the Cincinnati Children’s and UCCOM community are encouraged to stop by to view the exhibit from now until May. At that time, a celebration will be held, and the time capsule will be sealed and buried near the east entrance to Location-R. “History informs our future,” Cheng notes. “A time capsule reminds us of progress made and lessons for the future. As leaders in child health, we need to be looking to the future—their future—and think about how history will remember this time and our role in it.” As a tribute to the department’s bicentennial in 2121, the time capsule will once again be unearthed for future generations to admire just how far we’ve come and reflect on the legacy we leave behind—one that will continue to have a lasting impact on pediatric research, education, and innovation.

Vials of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be included in the new time capsule... will a 3D model of a heart...

...and a proclamation from Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley declaring June 8, 2021, as "B.K. Rachford Department of Pediatrics Day.

See more photos of our time capsule contents.

Recapping the B.K. Rachford Department of Pediatrics Centennial Celebrations

Mayor Cranley Declares June 8 'Rachford Department of Pediatrics Day'

The City of Cincinnati issued an official proclamation in honor of the partnership between Cincinnati Children’s and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

“Whereas, in 1920, the great Cincinnati philanthropist Mary Emery donated today’s equivalent of $3.3 million to the University of Cincinnati to support the College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics and rename it in honor of Dr. Benjamin Knox Rachford, the first ever Cincinnati physician to limit his practice to pediatrics,” the proclamation opens.

It continues by noting the decades of accomplishments within the department and Cincinnati Children’s that have saved the lives and improved the health of countless children and offers the city’s deepest congratulations and gratitude.

Watch this brief video of Mayor Cranley discussing the proclamation.

Honoring Our Past to Build Our Future

The proclamation coincided with the June 8, 2021, virtual event Honoring Our Past to Build Our Future, planned and coordinated by Cincinnati Children’s to celebrate the last century of the B.K. Rachford Department of Pediatrics and the partnership between both institutions. The program featured celebrated faculty, staff, and alumni who addressed the following:

  • Pediatric Grand Rounds: Improving Child Health: The first 100 years of the B.K. Rachford Department of Pediatrics, The Past Informs the Future
  • Community Highlights: Evolution of interactions with the community
  • Research Highlights: History and spectrum of research
  • Clinical Highlights: History and key moments of the clinical system

View the full agenda, speakers, and session recordings from the June 8 event.

Envisioning Our Future for Children

Cincinnati Children’s, in collaboration with the UC College of Medicine, also continues to host a virtual speaker series entitled Envisioning Our Future for Children, which features presentations by prominent clinical and research experts helping to chart our next century, including:

  • "Bending the Arc of History for Children," featuring Jim Yong Kim, MD, PhD, co-founder, Partners in Health; past president, World Bank; past president, Dartmouth College
  • "Humanizing Drug Discovery," featuring David Altshuler, MD, PhD, executive vice president, Global Research and chief scientific officer, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • "The Moral Determinants of Health," featuring Donald M. Berwick, MD, MPP, president emeritus and senior fellow, founding CEO, Institute for Healthcare Improvement
  • "Atlases as Roadmaps to Understand and Treat Disease," featuring Aviv Regev, PhD, executive vice president, Genentech Research and Early Development (no recording)
  • "Emerging Science and Technology in Health and Medicine: A Brave New World," featuring Victor J. Dzau, MD, president of the National Academy of Medicine, chancellor emeritus and James B. Duke Professor of Medicine at Duke University
  • Kevin B. Johnson, MD, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor and chair, Department of Biomedical Informatics; professor, Department of Pediatrics; informatician-in-chief; Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Winter 2022, stay tuned for details)

Open to all, members of the broader community can watch video recaps of these past events on YouTube or read summaries on the Cincinnati Children’s Research Horizons Science Blog.

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