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Preservationists reveal contents of 1887 time capsule crews found hidden inside base of Robert E. Lee statue

Image source: Facebook video screenshot

Conservators in Richmond, Virginia, unpacked the hidden treasure trove that was stowed away in a time capsule found inside the base of the now-removed statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Among the many items found inside the 36-pound copper box were Confederate money, a Bible with a silver coin pressed into the cover, and a Confederate flag and Masonic symbol that historians say were carved from a tree that grew out of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's original grave in the Lexington Cemetery.

The time capsule was found Tuesday by digging crews in charge of removing the historic statue of Robert E. Lee. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered the statue removed last year as a result of national protests stemming from the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Historians thought they had found the prized time capsule earlier this month; however, the previously discovered box did not match the dimensions or description of historical records. It was later determined that the first capsule had likely been left by a person or persons involved with the construction of the monument.

It took conservators more than an hour and a half to unbox the capsule's contents, as many of the documents packed inside the box had been subjected to water damage.

The box also had to be examined by a bomb squad, as newspaper reports from 1887 claimed that the capsule contained an artillery shell from the battle of Fredericksburg, according to the New York Post. “We don’t trust what they wrote in the newspaper back then so we wanted to make sure it wasn’t live before anybody came into the lab,” Kate Ridgway, lead conservator of the state Department of Historic Resources, said, the Post reported.

Historians had hoped that the second time capsule contained a rare photograph of Abraham Lincoln in his coffin, but to their dismay, it was not among the collected artifacts. However, conservators did find an 1865 edition of Harper's Weekly that contained an image of an individual grieving the death of Lincoln at his grave.

Conservators are currently working to preserve all the items found in the capsule and promised to release a full list of the contents as soon as they are examined and restored, according to NPR.

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