2nd Time Capsule Surfaces Days After First One Was Discovered Beneath Former Statue of Robert E. Lee

Julie Langan, Director of Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources and Kate Ridgway, Conservator at Virginia Department of Historic Resources

“It was totally unexpected. We didn’t know it existed and in a location that we were not looking,” VDHR's director Julie Langan tells Inside Edition Digital, of the first time capsule found last week.

A second time capsule has been discovered where the Robert E. Lee statue once stood in Richmond, Virginia, and is apparently 'the time capsule' that was buried in 1887 that everyone has been looking for.

“There is no question that we found the time capsule. There were no surprises. And, everything that we found was more or less what we expected," Julie Langan, the department director at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR) told Inside Edition Digital.

Langan said the search for the time capsule resumed yesterday morning, and then she got the call shortly after that "another metal box,” was found. 

The copper box, which weighed 36 pounds, and measured 13.5 inches by 13.5 inches by 7.5 inches, was ”below grade in a very wet area," Langan said.

Before the box was opened, Richmond’s bomb squad was called to make sure it was safe to open. Langan explained that it was procedural and something they do when working with live bullets and historic munitions. “We don’t want to open something and have a big surprise,” she added.

At the unveiling on Tuesday afternoon, two paper conservators at the state department's Historic Resources carefully handled some of the contents of the box. Some of the historic items included civil war bullets, known as ‘mini-balls,’ money, coins, some carved wooden ornaments, textile, newspapers, a Bible and an assortment of other books.

Langan noted that they were "in much better condition than what we would have expected."

“We know now having removed some of the items that some of them were wet and some just damp," she said. “For now our focus is on preserving the items, not doing a detailed inventory,” said Langan, adding that a more comprehensive intake will be done at a later date that will be compared to the historical record. 

Last week, the Robert E. Lee monument made headlines once again when the first time capsule was found while crews were removing the massive monument. 

Langan told Inside Edition Digital that the discovery was a surprise, even for her and her team.

“It was totally unexpected. We didn’t know it existed and in a location that we were not looking,” she said. "They are both interesting for different reasons.The box recovered last week was more personal and it was probably just a handful of people who knew that it was buried in the pedestal so it was a complete surprise."

She explained that the items in the time capsule recovered last week didn’t match what they were looking for. It was a smaller box, constructed of lead with fewer items of a more personal nature and may have been “left by some of the men that were involved in the construction of the pedestal sometime between 1887 and 1889.”

Inside the box was an 1887 almanac, a cloth envelope, silver coins, a pamphlet regarding water power facilities for the city of Manchester, and an edition of “The Huguenot Lovers: A Tale of the Old Dominion,” by Collinson Pierrepont Edwards Burgwyn, Inside Edition previously reported.

"We knew to question whether it was really the time capsule. It wasn’t the right material. It wasn't the right size. It wasn’t the right inventory items. We concluded it wasn’t the right time capsule," she said.

The question one may ask, is 'Why would someone who was working on the structure want to bury a box filled with personal items?'

Langan, who is also an architectural historian, replied. “The way I look at this is that they left their mark. They worked really hard and felt very proud of their craftsmanship and perhaps they left the box there as a memento, as part of their legacy." 

With two different boxes surfacing, the week turned out rather exciting for Langan and her team.

“It’s been very exciting. It has been a really special moment for our agency. We have a very talented professional staff. They usually work quietly and no one knows they exist, and this has been a great way to share with the world what our staff is capable of doing,” Langan said.

She added: “This is a very proud moment.”

The statue of Lee on his horse was dedicated in 1890 and became a scene of protests following the murder of George Floyd. 

In September after a Supreme Court ruling, the process began on the removal of the Gen. Robert E. Lee statue, the last Confederate statue on Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue, that had been at the center of much intense national debate.

Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam tried to remove the statue but was met with legal challenges going back to June 2020. When the ruling finally happened, Northam said “pulling down the statue would help move the state and Richmond into a more inclusive, just future,” according to a previously reported CNN story.

Currently, that partial statue is being stored and it is undecided what the state plans to do with the monument at this time.

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