Monday, January 17, 2022

Northam announces plans to remove time capsule from Robert E Lee statue

The Robert E. Lee Statue in Richmond, circa summer 2020 (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)

STATEWIDE — Back in 1887, a time capsule was placed in the pedestal foundation of the Robert E. Lee statue located at Monument and Allen avenues in Richmond.

134 years later, Governor Ralph Northam plans to remove the time capsule and utilize the help of Virginia residents to replace it with a new one.

Northam made the announcement on June 22, inviting Virginians of all ages to suggest new artifacts that represent the modern Commonwealth for a new capsule that will be installed at the site when the statue is removed.

“It’s time to say to the world, this is today’s Virginia, not yesterday’s,” Gov. Northam said in a statement from a June 22 news release. “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.”

According to the news release, historians believe a copper time capsule was placed in the cornerstone of the pedestal on October 27, 1887. Records from the Library of Virginia suggest that 37 Richmond residents, organizations, and businesses contributed about 60 objects to the capsule, many of which are believed to be related to the Confederacy.

Virginians interested in participating should submit a description of their artifact, including the item’s size and material, and an explanation of how the object represents Virginia. To submit an artifact for consideration, individuals must own the item or have the ability to obtain it. Submissions will be collected for one month, through Tuesday, July 20. For more information about how to participate in the creation of the new time capsule, visit governor.virginia.gov/timecapsule.

On March 22, 2021, Historic Jamestowne, an entity of Preservation Virginia, conducted a scan of the pedestal and identified a void in the base where the time capsule is likely housed. The Virginia Department of General Services analyzed the results of the scan and concluded that the time capsule can be removed and replaced without damaging the fidelity of the structure.

When the current time capsule is removed, a qualified conservator will take precautions to ensure the contents’ appropriate treatment. The capsule and its contents will be transferred for safekeeping at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources’ conservation lab, where expert staff can oversee the examination of the contents.

“Throughout this process, the Commonwealth has remained committed to following best practices for historic preservation,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Matthew J. Strickler, in a statement from the release. “The Department of Historic Resources will work to ensure that the new capsule’s contents represent our Commonwealth and withstand the test of time.”

The Governor proposed and the General Assembly funded $1 million to create a plan for reimaging Monument Avenue. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in partnership with the City of Richmond, will lead this planning effort.

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