A Robert E Lee monument removed from Charlottesville, Va. was prepared to be melted down and destroyed after it was associated with the violent 2017 “Unite the Right” rally, when conservators found two time capsules placed within the statue’s pedestal.
According to Richmond city records, the contents of a time capsule buried in the Robert E Lee pedestal are said to date back to 1887 and could potentially possess very valuable items.
“37 Richmond residents, organizations, and businesses contributed about 60 objects to the capsule,” according to a press release from the governor’s office, “many of which are believed to be related to the Confederacy.”
The first time capsule found last week proved to be a dud after conservators revealed that it was much newer than 1887, but a second time capsule found on Monday may just be the valuable item researchers have been searching for for the last 134 years.
“They found it!” Governor Ralph Northam stated in a tweet Monday, along with the photos of the time capsule found in the statue’s pedestal. “This is likely the time capsule everyone was looking for.”
According to researchers, the time capsule may even contain a photograph of Abraham Lincoln’s casket, which U.S. history buffs have long held out on finding. Local historian and author Dale Brumfield told ABC News that he was excited to “finally get a chance to see what in the devil that picture of Abraham Lincoln really is.”
Historians at Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources will review the second time capsule after spending hours to slowly open and uncover the contents of the first box discovered last week.
The first box reportedly contained a coin, a few books, and some old photographs in an envelope that were “difficult to identify given their condition,” but none of the items listed in the historical record from 1887 were included. The second box, discovered on Monday, may hold all the answers. The first item was also made out of lead, which researchers said was a major clue that it was not the 1887 time capsule.
“I believe that those guys were left out of the original time capsule, and they decided that they wanted to commemorate themselves by putting this small lead box up 20 feet up, which is the halfway point in the construction,” historian Dale Brumfeld told ABC News.
It remains unknown how long it will take to safely open the second time capsule, but Governor Northam said that conservators are “studying it” to confirm the box’s legitimacy.
Meanwhile, the Robert E Lee statue is scheduled to be melted down and turned into a piece of public art after the city won the rights to remove the statue honoring a hero of the Confederacy.
Though they have yet to decide on a design, The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center plans to “transform a national symbol of white supremacy into a new work of art that will reflect racial justice and inclusion.”
The monument provided the setting for a violent 2017 demonstration known as the “Unite the Right” rally, in which one counter-protestor was tragically killed. James Fields Jr., an Ohio man, was later sentenced to life in prison for hitting counter-protestor Heather Heyer with his car and continuing to drive through a crowd of people.
Though protestors in support of the statue argued for it to stay, the events of the “Unite the Right” rally greatly heightened support for its removal.
“This land is in the middle of Richmond, and Richmonders will determine the future of this space,” Governor Ralph Northam previously stated. He promised that the pedestal would be removed by the end of the year, but treasures such as lost time capsules may hold back the project.