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WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman On The Story

In 1897, a time capsule was sealed up and hidden away in the cornerstone of what was Bellevue Hospital Medical College in Manhattan. Now, it has been found.

A few weeks ago, that building at East 26th Street and 1st Avenue was demolished.

The contents of the time capsule were recovered and they're now in the hands of New York University bacteriologist Dr. Martin Blaser, who says it was no ordinary time capsule.

"In addition to papers from that time and materials from students from the Bellevue Medical College and the newspaper the New York Sun from 1897, it also had a test tube that had some bacterial spores in it that were gotten and cultured from a patient in 1896," Blaser told WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman.

Blaser says his team is trying to wake up those spores and grow them so they can study the organisms.

"We are interested in the question of whether seventy years of antibiotics is changing the organisms that live in the body. The organism that was put in the time capsule was a normal organism that lives in the human body. By having this organism and comparing it to present day organisms, we may have a chance to answer the question of whether our own organisms are changing or not," said Blaser.

Blaser says the specimen was put there by a bacteriologist named Edward Dunham. He says Dunham was one of the city's early bacteriologists and that it was he who first described that these bacteria actually form spores.

Blaser says that scientists knew spores could last a long time, but they didn't know how long. There was even a note saying that he hoped future generations would record how long they lasted.