Time capsule with Fellows’ messages for the future placed under Dome

April 09, 2021
The time capsule was constructed from spare copper plates. Image: Australian Academy of Science.

A time capsule containing Fellows’ messages to the future has been placed under the copper roof of the Shine Dome.

The capsule contains a letter from the President of the Academy, Professor John Shine, reflections of Fellows and staff of the Academy, newspaper front pages documenting the tumultuous events of 2020 and other historical documents, including the complete genome of SARS-CoV-2.

​The Shine Dome was heavily damaged in January 2020 in a massive hailstorm. Restoration began in November 2020, with a new copper layer being laid over a timber frame, with waterproofing materials between. The original copper remains beneath these layers.

The project is in the final stage of completion. Over 1888 tiles of copper, each custom made and weighing approximately 15.5 tonnes in total, have been installed on the Shine Dome.

Meanwhile, a project to envision a zero emissions future for the Dome is underway, with several public symposia being held that build a conversation around heritage values and sustainability.

The following letter and items were included in the time capsule.

Note from the President and Chief Executive, 7 April 2020

2020 was a tumultuous year in Australia and around the globe. Australia had experienced bushfires of unprecedented intensity over the summer of 2019/2020 – a reminder of the impact on Australia of a warming globe due to anthropogenic climate change.

On 20 January 2020, Canberra was struck by a severe hailstorm that, in a matter of minutes, caused widespread damage. This included significant damage to the Australian Academy of Science’s two buildings: Ian Potter House and the heritage listed Shine Dome.

Whilst this was unfolding a “pneumonia of unknown cause” was spreading across the globe. This was to become known as SARS-CoV-2, a highly transmittable respiratory virus that triggered a global health pandemic, COVID-19. By 7 April 2021, COVID-19 had caused 130 million recorded cases and 2.86 million recorded deaths worldwide.

Following the hailstorm, the repairs to the Academy’s building included copper recladding of the Shine Dome. The original copper roof remained in place and a new structure was built over it to allow a new copper layer to be installed, improving the integrity and thermal performance of the building and rendering it waterproof. The apex of the Shine Dome was slightly elevated to assist water run-off and avoid water pooling at the top. In doing so, a cavity was created beneath the apex.

This time capsule was inserted into the cavity on Wednesday 7 April 2021. It contains the documents and historical materials listed below. They are but a small sample of the history of the Academy, of its building and of the extraordinary knowledge created and disseminated by its Fellowship. The time capsule seeks to capture the significant and tumultuous events of 2020, many of which shaped the way we live in Australia and across the world.

Professor David Curtis AC FAA FRS was a former President of the Academy. In an interview by Dr Max Blythe in 1993, Blythe asked Curtis “…your Presidency of the Academy of Science from 1986 to ’90. That must have been an interesting and fruitful time?”

Curtis replied “It was an interesting time. I can’t really judge how fruitful it was – you can’t do that yourself. You need to look back at it from the future and see what it looks like.”

Should you discover this time capsule, we ask that you look back from the future in order to assess our actions and inactions and to inform your way forward as custodians of our planet and all its biodiversity.

Time capsule contents

Some of the items placed in the time capsule. Clockwise from top-left: 65 years of the Australian Academy of Science commemorative list of Fellows; "The Australian Academy of Science: The First 50 Years" by Frank Fenner; "Profiles of Women Scientists in Asia: Their inspirational stories" by The Association of Academies and Societies of Science in Asia; Shine Dome restoration design plans; Australian Academy of Science lapel pin; Science Matters magazine 2020; The risks to Australia of a 3°C warmer world;"A big, bold, simple concept: a history of the Australian Academy of Science Dome" by Alan Roberts; Women in STEM Decadal Plan. Image: Australian Academy of Science.

Books and reports 

  • Roberts, Alan. & Australian Academy of Science (2010). A big, bold, simple concept: a history of the Australian Academy of Science Dome.
  • The Association of Academies and Societies of Science in Asia (2018). Profiles of Women Scientists in Asia: Their inspirational stories.
  • Australian Academy of Science (2021). The risks to Australia of a 3°C warmer world.
  • Australian Academy of Science (2020). Science Matters
  • Australian Academy of Science (2019). Women in STEM Decadal Plan
  • Frank Fenner (2008). The Australian Academy of Science: The First 50 Years
One of the front pages preserved in the time capsule. Image: The Canberra Times

Newspaper covers 

  • Front page, Canberra Times, 1st January 2020 
  • Front page, Canberra Times, 21st January 2020 
  • Front page, Canberra Times, 29th January 2020 
  • Front page, Canberra Times, 2nd February 2020 
  • Front page, Canberra Times, 3rd March 2020 
  • Front page, Canberra Times, 13th March 2020 
  • Front page, Canberra Times, 22nd March 2020 
  • Front page, Canberra Times, 8th July 2020 
  • Front page, Canberra Times, 27th October 2020 
  • Front page, Canberra Times, 15th November 2020 

Other documents

  • Shine Dome restoration design plans   
  • Australian Academy of Science By-Laws, December 2020
  • Reflections from Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science and early- and mid-career researchers 
  • 65 years of the Australian Academy of Science commemorative list of Fellows [poster] 
  • Images from staff of hail damage to Australian Academy of Science grounds and property and selection of events over the course of 2020  
  • First Rapid Research Information Forum report: Re-infection with SARS-CoV-2, Office of the Chief Scientist, 19 April 2020 
  • SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence: 


  • Australian Academy of Science lapel pin received by every Fellow elected to the Australian Academy of Science

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