State Watch

Books, money, ammunition pulled from time capsule found at Lee statue site

Copper coins, rubber bands, a Bible, Confederate money and more historic artifacts were found inside of a time capsule unearthed from the site of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Va.

Conservators confirmed the authenticity of the time capsule, a roughly 130-year-old copper box, at a Virginia Department of Historic Resources lab on Tuesday. During a livestream, they opened the box and found multiple items, including Minié balls used in musket firearms, old books and a Confederate flag.

The historic moment was also streamed on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) Twitter page.

Kate Ridgway, the state archaeological conservator with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, said the items and artifacts were in “good condition.”

“What we’re seeing looks good — it’s in good condition,” she said.

Ridgway said that since the box was not placed with a desire to be opened in a certain period of time, it should be called a “cornerstone box” rather than a “time capsule.”

“Time capsules were meant to have a definite date for opening in the future and this definitely did not have that,” she said. “So calling it a cornerstone box is more accurate.”

After crews began pulling the Lee statue down in September, workers and historians were on the lookout for an 1887 time capsule that was believed to be underneath the monument based on an old newspaper article about the capsule.

Earlier in December, workers located one time capsule, a small lead box containing books, a coin and other items. The original time capsule, which contained about 60 historic items donated from 37 Richmond residents, businesses and organizations, according to the Library of Virginia, was then found on Monday underneath the pedestal of the statue.

“It does appear that this is the box we expected,” Ridgway said of the second time capsule.

An old photograph of Abraham Lincoln in his coffin was thought to be inside the time capsule, but the only similar item found was a picture of an 1865 issue of Harper’s Weekly that showed a figure grieving over Lincoln’s grave, according to The Associated Press.

The box also lacked an inscription, though it could have been removed by water damage, researchers said.

Historians said they were unsure who exactly will take ownership of the artifacts, but believed they would be state property.

Grant Neely, the chief communications officer for Northam’s office, said conservators will work over the next few months to authenticate the artifacts and preserve them.

“You’ve watched them put those aside so they can be safely maintained and studied,” he said after they opened the box and removed its contents.

The state is placing a new time capsule containing a COVID-19 vaccination card and a Black Lives Matter memento, among other items, where the statue once stood.

Tags Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Grant Neely historic doucments Kate Ridgway memorabilia Ralph Northam richmond Robert E. Lee Robert E. Lee statue Time capsule Virginia Virginia Department of Historic Resources

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