Two college professors spent a cool, gray morning at Artpark on Friday seeking buried treasure.
They were hunting for a time capsule — an Oldsmobile that was buried in a hill near a former boardwalk there in 1975, an era when the facility welcomed the most avante garde artists of the day.
“There’s an art installation beneath our feet,” explained Lisa Marie Anselmi, an archeologist, working with Kevin Williams, an earth science, geology and astronomy professor and an expert in ground penetrating radar.
Anselmi, who is more accustomed to digs at Beaver Island where she and her students hunt tools made by native Americans, and Williams, whose research on the geology of Mars received funding from NASA, were volunteering their time to find the time capsule car.
“It’s part of our service to the community,” Williams said.
The pair used sophisticated radar equipment which Williams said has been used locally to find grave sites at Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls and buried barracks at Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown. On Friday, the technology was used to find the perimeter of the buried car, which is an estimated 8 feet beneath the surface.
This wasn’t just any old car. The 1968 tail-finned Vista Cruiser was filled to the brim with artifacts of the period, from magazines to beauty products, toys to diaries. The items include a video of a news story by a Channel 7 reporter who joked that when the car was finally unearthed, people would again hear renowned anchor Irv Weinstein say the words he used to close every newscast, “And finally...”
The “Citizens Time Capsule” was the brainchild of Doug Michels, an architect and founding member of Ant Farm, a radical group of artists from San Francisco.
Michels is featured in an online documentary posted on the website Vimeo, detailing the burial event and showcasing the contributions from community members, many of whom were present for the entombing.
“We wanted it more personal than other time capsules that have been put away in the past,” Michels says in the Vimeo video, noting that there were family scrapbooks, home movies and mementos included “to show the way people lived in 1975 and the things they thought about.”
Tanis Winslow, a spokesperson for Artpark, said the project is just as cutting edge now as it was back in 1975.
“One of the things that is really cool about Ant Farm is they were involving the media in their artwork before things like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, in a really cutting edge way that’s still relevant and exciting 40 years later,” she said.
Winslow, who credited Michael Beam, curator at the Castellani Art Museum and a volunteer in the effort, for being the passion and energy behind the treasure hunt, used the Vimeo video to help the professors try and locate the Oldsmobile.
Winslow noted that after several hours of searching the grounds, the car may have been located. “I believe we’ve found the location,” Winslow said, adding that the professors have to go back to their labs and work with their students to analyze the findings of the radar equipment to be certain.
What’s going to be done with the car? Will the site finally have a marker of some sort? Will the car and its treasure trove of 1975 artifacts be dug up and displayed?
Winslow declined to answer, noting that once the car is found, discussions will begin about how to proceed.
It is likely that the car, which was encased in cement, covered in tar, plastic and a net of old tires — intended to be buried for only 25 years — will someday be unearthed, its 30 or so suitcases opened and its treasures revealed.
At that time, the video documenting the burial will likely get more attention, repeating the words of Doug Michels, the Ant Farm artist who led the project.
“See you in the future,” Michels said in a mischievous tone. “Enjoy the trip.”