▶ Watch Video: Virginia removes Robert E. Lee statue from capital

Newspapers, photographs, coins and books were among items uncovered in a 19th century time capsule that was hidden beneath a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Virginia, historians announced Tuesday. Another time capsule found beneath the same statue and opened last week contained an almanac, cloth envelope and a silver coin. 

“It’s in better shape than we had expected,” said Chelsea Blake, a conservator for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. “We thought everything was going to be soup and it’s not soup. So it’s pretty great.”

Conservators also unboxed a piece of wood with a bullet in it, handwritten letters, multiple books with antique bookmarks, Confederate coins in an envelope, and a copy of a photograph of former President Abraham Lincoln in his coffin. 

Next, conservators will conduct a full inventory of the artifacts, stabilize and preserve them, they said Tuesday. Officials think the box was left by someone who oversaw the monument’s initial construction. 

Conservators work on a box believed to be a time capsule left in the pedestal at the former site of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, on December 28, 2021.

Sarah Rankin / AP

The statue, which is located in Richmond, was taken down this summer, along with two other statues, following protests against racism and police brutality that erupted across the nation. Local officials decided the statue would be melted down and converted into new artwork.

While working to remove the 40-foot pedestal, crews discovered a granite stone box earlier this month. Historians believed the capsule would hold dozens of Confederacy-related objects but it did not. On Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced the discovery of a second time capsule.

Northam, who ordered the statue’s removal, replaced the first time capsule with a new one crafted by a local sculptor. 

“This monument and its time capsule reflected Virginia in 1890 — and it’s time to remove both so that our public spaces better reflect who we are as a people in 2021,” Northam said in a statement. “The past 18 months have seen historic change, from the pandemic to protests for racial justice that led to the removal of these monuments to a lost cause. It is fitting that we replace the old time capsule with a new one that tells that story.”