From left, Jo-Ann Raia, chair of the Walt Whitman Birthplace...

From left, Jo-Ann Raia, chair of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association's time capsule committee, and Cynthia Shor, the association's executive director, with a time capsule that will be sealed on Friday in honor of Whitman's 200th birthday. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Though delayed because of the pandemic, members of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association will finally seal a time capsule —with artifacts, written historic texts and books — to commemorate the bicentennial birthday celebration of one of Huntington's most beloved residents. 

The famed American poet Walt Whitman, who was born on Long Island in May 1819, grew to prominence in the 19th century for his writing, which some say captured the nation’s spirit.

“He was very forward thinking,” said Cynthia Shor, the association's executive director. “He had great hopes for America and its democracy. He had a universal view of mankind ... that democratic universal view shows forth in his poems and writing."

The association held a yearlong celebration beginning in 2019 for what would have been his 200th birthday, and which should’ve been capped off with the dedication of a time capsulein 2020, but that was delayed by the pandemic.

“We’ve had the extra time to accumulate very significant items, not only commemorating COVID, but also Walt Whitman,” Shor said. 

At 1 p.m. on Friday, the association will hold a ceremony at the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site — at 246 Old Walt Whitman Rd. in Huntington Station — to seal the 12-inch by 12-inch stainless steel capsule.

Among the items placed in the capsule is a medallion provided by New York State Parks; artifacts and documents related to Whitman, the association and historic site; a mug with a picture of the birthplace and newspaper clippings of the 200th birthday celebration. 

Shor said the capsule will also include electronic items that will either be viewed as antiques or part of a technological evolution when they are unearthed 50 years from now. 

The Town of Huntington, which assisted in bringing this time capsule effort to fruition, will place two items inside  — a photocopy of the original wax seal from the establishment of the town signed by Supervisor Ed Smyth and a boxed original Nathan Hale bicentennial coin.

Smyth said in a statement that the town provided funding for the project from its Huntington Cultural Affairs Institute.

“It will provide an exciting look into our present-day and the beginning of Huntington's history for those celebrating Walt Whitman’s 250th birthday in 2069,” Smyth said.

Jo-Ann Raia, a trustee for the association and chair of the time capsule committee, said the event will also honor the association’s former longtime President of Trustees William Trump Walter, who died in 2020. 

“We decided to have some of Dr. Walter's manuscript and memorabilia in the time capsule as well,” Raia said.

Raia said the capsule, which was purchased from California-based Future Packaging and Preservation, can keep the items uncompromised for 200 years. A plaque on the outside features part of Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself.”  

The board decided the capsule should be unsealed on Whitman’s 250th birthday because they figured their grandchildren could be part of the opening, Raia said, adding. “Hopefully, whoever is in charge will rebury it for another 50 years.”

About the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association

The Walt Whitman Birthplace Association acts as stewards of the Walt Whitman Birthplace, a New York State Historic Site that preserves and promotes the poet’s legacy with educational programs about his life and work. The association was established in 1949 by poets, authors, professors, businesspeople, and citizens. In 1985, the property where the museum is housed, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Source: Walt Whitman Birthplace Association

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