UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Time Capsule buried in UCL's world-class centre for neuroscience as part of Dementia Action Week

19 May 2022

An Iceland plastic carrier bag, a Covid-19 vaccine vial and a piece of stainless steel have been buried in a time capsule of a new world-class centre for neuroscience at UCL.

Queen Square Institute of Neurology Manager, Hélène Crutzen and local resident Marianne Jacobs-Lim bury the time capsule

An Iceland plastic carrier bag, a Covid-19 vaccine vial and a piece of stainless steel have been buried in a time capsule of a new world-class centre for neuroscience at UCL, currently in construction on Grays Inn Road, London. The capsule will be placed in the building’s foundations on Thursday 19 May as part of Dementia Action Week.

UCL is already one of the world's largest, most productive and highest-impact neuroscience centres and the pioneering new building, due to open in 2024, will accelerate the discovery of treatments for neurological conditions, including dementia, of which there is still no known cure. 

Expanding the existing facilities at Queen Square Institute of Neurology will create a dual hub for neurological science and house the national headquarters of the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI); a large proportion of UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology; and an outpatient facility for the UCLH National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, allowing clinicians and researchers to work closer than ever before with people with neurological disorders, their doctors and researchers.  

The building is funded by UCL, the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, the Medical Research Council, the UCL Dementia Research Retail Coalition and our generous philanthropic partners, including: Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Mr Martin Lee and Mrs Cathy Lee, the National Brain Appeal, Brain Research UK, and more. The Founding Funders of the UK Dementia Research Institute are the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The time capsule, due to be opened in 2049 – the building’s silver jubilee - includes a range of objects that tell the story of the centre’s foundation and preserve its memories for years to come, from its inception, obtaining the Eastman Dental Hospital site in 2017 and breaking ground in 2021 – navigating the Covid-19 pandemic along the way. 

A plastic bag was included to represent the total of over £20 million donated by supermarkets to create the new facility of which £10m was donated by Iceland Food Charitable Foundation. The money was raised from the proceeds of the 5p carrier bag charge. Iceland Foods Founder and Executive Chairman Sir Malcolm Walker founded the Dementia Research Retail Partnership - a group of nine UK retailers who committed to support dementia research at UCL.

The Covid-19 vaccine, alongside the genomic sequence for the virus represents the work that both scientists at UCL and clinicians at UCLH have undertaken during the pandemic, while the piece of stainless steel symbolises the joint UCLH and UCL MRI facility, which will bring up to six new MRI scanners into operation. During construction, standard iron girders could not be used in this space, due to the powerful magnets involved.

Other items in the time capsule include a giant sunflower head, cast in black-pigmented Jesmonite by artist Annie Cattrell. The sunflower was gifted to the project’s site artist by the neighbouring Calthorpe Community Garden, who had planted and grown the flower during lockdown. 

Site artist Freya Gabie has included drawings of the work site’s surface, pupils at nearby Christopher Hatton primary school imagined what scientists would have discovered in 25 years’ time and the capsule includes a selection of commonly used lab items in 2022 and research image photographs from early career researchers and students.

helene crutzen, mike hanna and selina wray

Professor Michael Hanna, Director, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, Dr Hélène Crutzen, Institute Manager, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, and Professor Selina Wray, Professor of Molecular Neuroscience, Deputy Director for Partnerships & Communication, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology

Professor Michael Hanna, Director UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology said: "I was delighted to welcome our colleagues and guests on site at Grays Inn Road this morning for the time capsule ceremony. It is amazing to think that our idea over 10 years ago of a new transformative neuroscience environment has now translated into such a fabulous building that will be completed in 2024. Construction is advancing well and the superstructure will be complete by the end of this year.
"It was great to see Helene Crutzen ION Manager and Marianne Lim from the local community place the time capsule in its home for the next 27 years!  This building will create an amazing environment, linking patients, clinicians and scientists. Combined with the clinical research programmes at Queen Square linked to the National Hospital (UCLH) the new Grays Inn Road site will form an amazing “dual-hub” translational environment."
"By 2049, when the capsule will be unearthed, I sincerely hope that our research, enabled by this new environment, will have led to effective therapies for dementia, Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease, and other devasting neurological  neurological diseases."
Dr Hélène Crutzen, Institute Manager, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology said: “Our new building at Gray’s Inn Road will help realise a unique vision: to bring under one roof, patients, clinicians and researchers, with state of the art facilities to support their quest; it will act as a catalyst and help foster new ideas and synergies to enable advances in the search for effective treatments. The building will encompass innovative ways of working to make it as operationally efficient as possible, and environmentally sustainable for our society and future generations.
We want to attract the very best scientists, early career researchers and students, from around the world, from different backgrounds and disciplines, to build a critical mass and ensure we continue to train the next generation of future leaders dedicated to achieving our mission.  I cannot wait for vision to become reality. To you opening the capsule in 2049: did we succeed?”


Main image:

Dr Hélène Crutzen (Institute Manager, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) and local resident Marianne Jacobs-Lim bury the time capsule at 256 Grays Inn Road