RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Crews working at a former Robert E. Lee monument in Virginia located what they believe is a time capsule from 1887, according to Brian Dickerson with Dickerson Construction.
The copper time capsule was found at 11:41 a.m. and weighs at least 30 pounds, twice as much as another time capsule opened last week, according to Kate Ridgway, State Archaeological Conservator for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Ridgway said the copper time capsule was located in the northeast corner of the statue’s pedestal under the capstone and that it has been sitting in acidic water for a while. They have not yet seen an inscription on the box.
Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted: “They found it! This is likely the time capsule everyone was looking for. Conservators studying it—stay tuned for next steps! (Won’t be opened today)”
A Richmond Magazine article from 2017 tells the story of the time capsule and the items that are thought to be inside, including an irreplaceable artifact related to President Abraham Lincoln. The time capsule opened last week was not the one referenced in historical documents.
The Robert E. Lee Monument was the largest Confederate statue in the U.S. and the last to be removed from Richmond’s Monument Avenue in September. Although the state announced its intentions to remove the statue in 2020, the plans were embroiled in legal disputes for more than a year before the Virginia Supreme Court sided with Gov. Northam and cleared the way for the statue’s removal.
Gov. Northam announced on Dec. 17 that construction crews removing the Robert E. Lee pedestal from Monument Avenue had located the historic time capsule. A previous effort to locate the vessel in September of this year was not successful and after a full day of searching, work crews abandoned their efforts and proceeded to move forward with a plan to bury a new time capsule.
The items in the new time capsule are the result of a statewide effort to include images and artifacts relevant to our time—an expired vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Kente cloth worn at the 400th commemoration of 1619, an Equal Rights Amendment sash, and a photo of a Black ballerina posed in front of the Robert E. Lee Monument.
Ridgeway said that the capstone weighed 3,000 pounds and 632 stones were removed, tagged, and will be preserved. She also noted that the governor’s office will coordinate the time capsule’s opening.
WRIC’s Sabrina Shutters contributed to this report.