Governor Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that he will remove a time capsule from beneath the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue and replace it with a new one if the court approves removing the statue.

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 according to Northam’s announcement.

“It’s time to say to the world, this is today’s Virginia, not yesterday’s,” Governor Northam said in a statement. “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 governor, Historic Jamestown, an entity of Preservation Virginia, conducted a scan of the pedestal in March and identified a void in the base where the time capsule is likely housed. The 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 governor’s announcement said that the capsule and its contents will be transferred to the Department of Historic Resources’ conservation lab, where expert staff can oversee the examination of the contents.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that there was a large celebration in 1887 when the time capsule was placed beneath the Lee Statue.

“As we seek to portray Virginia’s history with honesty, we must ensure our symbols reflect the values we hold today,” said Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Janice Underwood. “This project is an opportunity to replace relics of the Lost Cause with items that represent the Commonwealth’s strength in diversity and unite us around the progress we are making together.”


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