Time capsules act as a message from the past. At some point, someone thought various cultural artifacts were worth preserving for future excavation. And while the anticipation of opening one might not always be warranted—many are stuffed with antiquated trinkets—seeing what people thought would be representative of their era can be worth all the shoveling.
The latest example comes out of Richmond, Virginia, where a time capsule was recently discovered following the removal of a statue depicting Confederate general Robert E. Lee. According to CNN, the time-worn copper box contained numerous periodicals, including an 1865 issue of Harper’s Weekly; a Bible; a directory of Richmond; a Confederate uniform button; and an expanding bullet known as a Minié ball that was used in muzzle-loading rifles.
Anticipation for the capsule had been high, as one 1887 newspaper article detailing its existence made mention of it containing an image of Abraham Lincoln in his coffin. While technically true, the image was present as a woodcarving depiction from the Harper’s issue.
While the items were in decent condition, water had penetrated the box, as it often does. (If preservation is the goal, burial is a poor method for time capsules.) Conservators from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will look to preserve what they can from the contents.
The time capsule was the second to be retrieved from the site of the Lee statue, which was removed in September. The first, thought to be left by construction workers, was discovered inside the statue’s pedestal and contained an 1875 almanac as well as books and a coin.