Preserving Harmful Histories: Exploring the 1909 Time Capsule — A virtual event on Thursday, January 28

Photo shows soggy, dirty and ragged paper sheet with images of Charlottesville. Word "Charlottesville" is clearly visible.

A pamphlet from the time capsule, pre-conservation.
Photo: Molly Schwartzburg

On March 15, 1909, a time capsule was placed in the base of a bronze statue on the grounds of Court Square in Albemarle County. The statue, known as “At Ready,” depicted a Confederate soldier, and the contents of the time capsule were artifacts with local and/or Confederate connections.

When the statue was removed in September of 2020, the time capsule came out with it, and was taken to UVA’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library for conservation. The capsule (a copper box) and its contents were in poor shape, having been soaking in groundwater for more than a century after the statue’s base expanded and popped off the box’s lid. Sue Donovan, Conservator for Special Collections at UVA, describes the initial examination of the capsule and artifacts in an earlier post: Unearthed: Examining the contents of a 111 year old time capsule.

On Thursday January 28 at 6 p.m., Albemarle County will host a virtual presentation and question-and-answer session on the capsule: “Preserving Harmful Histories: Exploring the 1909 Time Capsule.” Speakers from UVA will include Donovan; Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Preservation Brenda Gunn; Curator Molly Schwartzburg of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library; and Caroline Janney, John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War and Director of John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History. They will be joined by Ned Gallaway of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. The presentation will cover the recovery of the time capsule, including conservation efforts; the materials in the capsule and associated materials in special collections; and how the items might be used in future pedagogy.

Below is a gallery of photos showing the time capsule and some of its contents. For more, join us on January 28 at 6 p.m. for the presentation — details can be found on the event page.

Photo of time capsule and contents as it arrived to the UVA Library's special collections: photo shows copper box from above, split on one end with no lid. Inside the box is a soggy mess of pulpy paper and brown liquid.

The time capsule and contents upon arrival at the Small Special Collections Library.
Photo: Sue Donovan

Photo shows 3 women, Conservator Sue Donovan, Curator Molly Schwartzburg, and Preservation Projects Specialist Nicole Royal, working with the contents of the time capsule, which are spread out over a work surface in a conservation lab environment.

Conservator Sue Donovan, Curator Molly Schwartzburg, and Preservation Projects Specialist Nicole Royal working with the time capsule and contents.
Photo: Eze Amos

Close up of gloved hands holding a marble, which looks to be made of a stone or clay-like substance. Initials R. J. are on the marble.

A marble, removed from the capsule and cleaned.
Photo: Eze Amos

Photo shows soggy and dirty newsprint laid out for conservation

Pamphlets and papers in the capsule prior to removal and conservation.
Photo: Eze Amos

Photo shows a sheet showing large estate homes. Relative to the materials shown in other photos in this article, it is clean.

Pamphlets from the capsule after conservation.
Photo: Eze Amos

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