Old photo, money, and diary found in second time capsule of Robert E. Lee statue

Newspapers, photographs, coins and books were among the items unearthed in a 19th-century time capsule hidden under a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Virginia, historians say announcement Tuesday. Another time capsule found under the same statue and opened last week contents an almanac, a cloth envelope and a silver coin.

“It’s in better condition than we expected,” said Chelsea Blake, conservator with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. “We thought it was all going to be soup and it’s not soup. So that’s pretty good.”

The Conservatives also unwrapped a piece of wood containing a bullet, handwritten letters, several books with old bookmarks, Confederate coins in an envelope and a copy of a photograph of former President Abraham Lincoln in his coffin.

Then, restorers will take a full inventory of the artifacts, stabilize them and preserve them, they said on Tuesday. Authorities believe the box was left behind by someone who oversaw the monument’s initial construction.

Lee Statue Time Capsule
Conservators work on a box that is believed to be a time capsule left in the pedestal of the former site of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia on December 28, 2021.

Sarah Rankin / AP

The statue, which is located in Richmond, was dismantled this summer, along with two other statues, following protests against racism and police brutality that erupted across the country. Local authorities decided that the statue would be fondues and converted into a new work of art.

While working to remove the 40-foot pedestal, the crews discovered a granite stone box earlier this month. Historians believed the capsule would contain dozens of Confederation-related items, but it doesn’t. On Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced the discovery of a second time capsule.

Northam, who ordered the statue’s removal, replaced the first time capsule with a new one designed by a local sculptor.

“This monument and its time capsule mirrored Virginia in 1890 – and it’s time to do away with both so that our public spaces better reflect who we are as a people in 2021,” Northam said in a statement. “The past 18 months have seen historic changes, from the pandemic to protests for racial justice that have led to the removal of these monuments for a lost cause. It’s only fitting that we replace the old time capsule with a new one that tells this story. “

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