Century-old time capsule found under dismantled statue of Robert E Lee is opened

A number of artefacts from 1875 have been discovered in the plinth of the monument

Jade Bremner
Thursday 23 December 2021 15:49
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A buried time capsule discovered under a dismantled statue of Robert E Lee has been opened, 134 years after the monument was erected.

The tin of artefacts, opened on Wednesday, was hidden in the plinth of the statue that stood in Richmond, Virginia. Sadly, the contents were completely waterlogged when discovered.

The contents of the tin included an almanac from 1875, three damaged books – including a copy of The Huguenot Lovers: A Tale of the Old Dominion by Collinson by Pierrepont Edwards Burgwyn – a silver coin, and a cloth envelope, which appears to have a picture in it.

The cloth envelope, historical records have suggested, may contain a photo of deceased Abraham Lincoln in his coffin, but the envelope can not be safely opened yet without causing damage to it. It will be treated before being opened.

“Given that the artefacts are wet, they will be put in the freezer to prevent any further deterioration,” Katherine Ridgway, a conservator at Virginia Department of Historic Resources, told WTVR.

Some believe there could, however, be another time capsule yet to be found in the statue’s plinth. After the statue was removed, historians spent 12 hours searching for a time capsule in the base of the 12-metre tall pedestal but couldn’t find it. The ancient box was eventually found on Friday, six metres deep into the plinth.

According to an 1887 news article, there should be around 60 objects in a time capsule in the statue’s base, including a photo of Lincoln. Researchers will continue to look further into the base of the statue.

The six-metre high Robert E Lee statue towered above Monument Avenue, in the former capital of the Confederacy, for more than 100 years before it was removed from public display in September, after becoming a focal point for Black Lives Matter protesters.

“This was a long time coming, part of the healing process so Virginia can move forward and be a welcoming state with inclusiveness and diversity,” said Virginia Govenor Ralph Northam, it represents “more than 400 years of history that we should not be proud of.”

Lee was a Confederate general who owned slaves and held white supremacist views, he fought to uphold the institution of slavery in the United States.

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