To add to the wonder of the holidays, a time capsule was opened in Richmond, Virginia this week providing a glimpse of life in the 1800s. The time capsule was found under a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that was removed earlier this fall. Crews extracted the capsule from the 40-foot-tall, 2,000-pound granite pedestal. A newspaper article written in 1887 noted the capsule contained Civil War memorabilia, and possibly "a picture of Lincoln lying in his coffin."
Historians say the newspaper article mentioned that a lead box time capsule was buried in 1887 and contained 60 items donated by Richmond residents. Items found this week only included an almanac from 1875, a few weathered books, a coin and a cloth envelope. Katherine Ridgway, a conservator at Virginia Department of Historic Resources, told news station WTVR, "Given that the artifacts are wet, they will be put in the freezer to prevent any further deterioration." Ridgeway says the preservation will take some time but they're in it for the long haul to see what messages Richmond residents wanted to leave behind 134 years ago.
There's a rumor there may have been a second time capsule, but the search has been difficult. Some historians wonder if the original publicized time capsule was stolen or misplaced. Preservationists have been looking for one in the statue's base, but this particular time capsule was found using X-Ray scans in the pedestal. “We have not yet made sense of why this assortment was placed in the box,” said Julie Langan, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. “It’s an odd assortment.” Langan adds, “I think some people are maybe a little disappointed, but it seems that most people are very engaged and intrigued by this time capsule and wondering, ‘What does it mean? What does it signify?’” she said. “It’s a puzzle.” The whereabouts of the documented time capsule may forever be a mystery, but once the items are preserved from the one that was recovered this week, they will be on display at a Richmond museum.
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