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Second Lee monument time capsule opened

Lee Monument Time Capsule DHR December 28
Jahd Khalil
Radio IQ
Conservators inspect contents of a time capsule found inside the pedestal of Richmond's removed Robert E Lee Monument.

When crews in Richmond removed the monument to General Robert E Lee and the Confederacy, they looked for a time capsule stowed away inside its base. But they never found it, until Monday.

Department of Historic Resources conservator Kate Ridgway prepared the copper box to be opened Tuesday morning, but then would have to face her nerves.

“There are three sides that are cut and we’re going to cut that last side live for everybody….which is terrifying.”

This is the second time Ridgway is opening a time capsule, while it was streamed online, in a week. Governor Ralph Northam looked on as Ridgway and Chelsea Blake, another conservator with DHR, opened up a smaller, lead box last week that crews found on December 17th. In it appeared to be items belonging to the people that helped build the monument.

“Everybody ready?” Ridgway asked Tuesday before delving into the contents of the copper time capsule. Inside there was much less moisture than would commonly be found in very old containers such as this one.

“Its not too bad,” said Sue Donovan, a conservator for special collections at the University of Virginia. “Its not soup, so we're ok with that.”

Inside was mostly printed material, including an almanac and records from the chamber of commerce. There was also a printed image of a feminine figure grieving over Lincoln’s casket, not a rare photograph of his body as some believed. Coins, bookmarks, and even a couple of rubber bands were inside too.

The items aligned with the 60-odd items listed in newspaper articles from the time. Inside was also Confederate money, buttons, and a Confederate flag.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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