RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Conservation experts in Virginia’s capital on Tuesday removed books, money, ammunition, documents and other artifacts from a time capsule found in the remains of a pedestal that once held a Statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Virginia Department of Historical Resources Chief Curator Kate Ridgway said the measurements and material of the box, made of copper, match historical accounts.
When the contents inside were unpacked, it seemed to match the 1887 time capsule description they had been looking for.
“It looks like this is the box we were hoping for,” he told reporters.
Records kept by the Virginia Library indicate that dozens of Richmond residents, organizations and businesses contributed some 60 objects to the capsule, including Confederate memorabilia.
The box was found the day before and carefully removed from the memorial site, marking the end of a long search for the elusive capsule.
Ridgway said the box, which weighed about 36 pounds, was found in water in a small hole in the plinth. The contents were wet, but “it’s not a soup,” Ridgway said.
“I think it is in better shape than we expected,” he said.
Historical records had led to some speculation that the capsule might contain a rare and historically significant photo of the late President Abraham Lincoln. One line from a newspaper article listed among its content a “picture of Lincoln lying in his coffin.”
On Tuesday, restorers found a printed image of an 1865 issue of Harper’s Weekly in the time capsule that Ridgway said appeared to show a grieving figure at Lincoln’s grave, but it didn’t appear to be the long-awaited photo.
The contents of the box were tightly packed and expanded from moisture and stuck together, making unpacking difficult, so the restorers decided to relieve the pressure by cutting one side.
“It’s not ideal, but it is what it is,” Ridgway said.
After Ridgway and other team members meticulously removed each object, other restorers took the pieces to the back of the lab for study and cataloging. The team made sure to photograph each object in the box before handling it.
Many of the paper items were damaged by water and time, but were still at least partially legible.
In addition to several books, pamphlets, and newspapers, the box contained an envelope of Confederate money, which the restorers carefully separated, and two carved objects: a Masonic symbol and a Confederate flag, said to have been made from the tree growing on it. the original grave of General Stonewall Jackson.
The restorers also removed buttons, coins and Miniè balls, a type of bullet used in the Civil War, from the box. A team of bomb squad had checked the capsule on Monday, in part to make sure there was no live ammunition.