RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Crews working at the former Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond located what they believe is the 1887 time capsule, according to Brian Dickerson with Dickerson Construction. Today’s discovery follows last week’s opening of a previously uncovered time capsule that was not the one referenced in historical documents.
The copper time capsule was found at 11:41 a.m. and weighs at least 30 pounds, twice as much as the other time capsule, according to Kate Ridgway, State Archaeological Conservator for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Ridgway said that 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.
Crews started work removing pieces of the pedestal that once supported the Robert E. Lee statue on Monday around 7:30 a.m. They placed large concrete pieces of the monument’s base to the side along with dirt from where the time capsule was found. Ridgeway said that the capstone weighed 3,000 pounds and 632 stones were removed, tagged and will be preserved.
The governor’s office announced Monday night that the time capsule would be opened starting at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Shortly before 1 p.m., 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, according to the article.
The Robert E. Lee Monument was the largest Confederate statue in the United States and the last to be removed from Richmond’s Monument Avenue in September 2021. Although the state announced its intentions to remove the statue in 2020 amidst civil unrest locally and across the nation, the plans were embroiled in legal disputes for more than a year before the Virginia Supreme Court sided with Gov. Northam clearing 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 ERA sash and a photo of a Black ballerina posed in front of the Robert E. Lee Monument.
Additional reporting by Sabrina Shutters