Researchers surprised by contents found in Albemarle Co. time capsule

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors gifts remains of 1909 time capsule to UVA

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is gifting the contents of a time capsule found under the At the Ready statue to the University of Virginia Special Collections Library for preservation, much of which, unfortunately, was damaged due to more than a century’s worth of water damage and decay.

“The time capsule contents were completely bathed in water. The foundation of concrete and to which the copper box had been placed had expanded over time, which pushed in on the copper box and popped the lid off, allowing rainwater to come in,” Sue Donovan, a curator at the library, said.

The capsule, placed in the base of the Confederate soldier statue in 1909, was recovered in Court Square earlier in September during the removal of the monument. Most of its items were not expected to be fully recovered.

“Even a well constructed and sealed time capsule can be breached and its contents damaged beyond repair,” Donovan said.

However, excavators were able to salvage more than originally planned. Among tarnished pamphlets, newspapers and rosters, items found included bullets, a medallion and other things not included in the long list found in an Daily Progress article published that year, like marbles and a flag.

Even though a large portion of the printed contents in the capsule are unlikely to be salvaged, their copies may be found elsewhere.

“As a curator, I never want to not keep anything that’s unique. Everything was a printed artifact rather than a unique artifact when it came to the texts,” curator Molly Schwartzburg said.

Schwartzburg said despite the damage, photographs and documentation from the excavation will be used in future research.

“As soon as you were to attempt to peel another page, there was no page to peel, but we could photograph those openings,” Schwartzburg said.

Much of the contents are being preserved at the University of Virginia for further investigation. The Board of Supervisors and curators agreed to plan on hosting an exhibit to share their findings with the public in January 2021.

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