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Workers find time capsule inside base of Robert E. Lee statue. Historians believe it could be the 1887 box they've been looking for.

Photo by RYAN M. KELLY/AFP via Getty Images

Digging crews wrapping up the removal of the historic statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, found what is believed to be a long sought-after historical treasure inside the base of the statue of the Confederate general Monday: a time capsule from 1887, The Hill reported.

"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)," Virginia Governor Ralph Northam tweeted Monday after diggers found the box.

The copper box found at the base of the statue is believed to be a time capsule from 1887 containing around 60 objects, most of which are believed to be Confederate memorabilia. It is also believed that the capsule is supposed to contain a rare photo of former President Abraham Lincoln in his coffin, according to Smithsonian magazine. Records from the Library of Virginia indicate that the contents of the capsule were donated by 37 Richmond residents, organizations, and businesses 134 years ago, according to a press release from the governor's office.

The capsule is scheduled to be opened Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Department of Historic Resources lab in Richmond. Video footage of the event will be recorded and released Wednesday morning, the governor's office said.

Conservators believed they had found the time capsule earlier this month; however, when the first box was examined, it was determined that it was not the time capsule historians were looking for, but likely a lead box that was left by a person or persons who oversaw the construction of the monument, the Associated Press reported. The first box contained little more than a few papers, some waterlogged books, and a silver coin.

Northam ordered that the statue be removed last summer, citing George Floyd's death as the reason for the monument's deconstruction; however, removal plans were stalled by litigation until the Supreme Court of Virginia gave the green light to proceed last week, the AP said.

Northam's office announced plans to replace the old time capsule with a new one earlier this year. All Virginians were invited to suggest new artifacts for the capsule once the statue had been removed.

“It’s time to say to the world, this is today’s Virginia, not yesterday’s. And one day, when future generations look back at this moment, they will be able to learn about the inclusive, welcoming Commonwealth that we are building together. I encourage Virginians to be part of this unique effort to tell our shared story," Northam said in a statement.

Submissions for the capsule ended in July and are now being reviewed by a panel. Plans for the installation of the new capsule have not yet been announced, but all items that will be included in the new capsule will be kept by the Department of Historic Resources until the new capsule is installed, according to the governor's office.

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