Time capsule buried by Paul Revere, Samuel Adams sees light of day

The time capsule is thought to contain coins dated between 1652 and 1855 and an engraved silver plate, among other things. The box will be X-rayed Sunday, and then officials will determine when to open it.

Stephan Savoia/AP
Pamela Hatchfield, a conservator at the Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, holds a time capsule she had just removed from the cornerstone of the Statehouse in Boston, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. Secretary of State William Galvin said the 200-year-old time capsule is believed to contain items such as old coins and newspapers, but the condition of the contents isn’t yet known.

The time capsule that was carefully dislodged from the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House Thursday is 219 years old – thought to be the oldest in the state – and yet the world will have to wait a little longer to see how well its contents have stood the test of time.

In 1795, Gov. Samuel Adams, patriot Paul Revere, and William Scollay, a militia officer during the Revolution, buried the small box during a ceremony that started at Boston’s Old State House and proceeded to the grounds of what’s still known as the “New” State House. In 1855, the time capsule – then a baby, really, at 60 years old – was briefly unearthed during emergency repairs, and more items were added.

The box is thought to contain coins dated between 1652 and 1855, an engraved silver plate, newspapers, a seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, cards, and a title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records, says Meghan Kelly, a spokeswoman for the state’s Executive Office of Administration and Finance, in an e-mail to the Monitor.

When repair work began on the building, the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance identified the cornerstone area for fixes because water infiltration could damage the time capsule, Ms. Kelly says.

Once workers confirmed the capsule’s location, conservator Pam Hatchfield from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts began a lengthy and delicate excavation. She spent about seven hours lying on her back to chip away at the stone block where it was hidden, and she finally emerged to a round of applause, holding the green corroded copper alloy box, The Boston Globe reports.

“Hopefully there will be no damage and we will be able to observe the artifacts that trace us back to the history not only just of this building, but of our commonwealth and our country,” Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said, as quoted by the Globe.

The Museum of Fine Arts will X-ray the box Sunday and then determine when to open it and how best to handle the contents, Kelly says. Officials have not yet decided whether they will add material to the capsule, the Globe reports.

“I have been privileged to spend all of my working life handling incredibly precious and important objects, and it is very exciting every single time,” Ms. Hatchfield said, as quoted by the Globe. “The sense of continuation of history that you get by entering a museum or historic site, but also by having it in your hands, is incredibly rewarding and enriching. And it gives meaning to a lot of people.”

Another time capsule was unearthed in Boston in October from the head of a golden lion atop the Old State House. It had been placed there in 1901. Its preservation is being handled by The Bostonian Society, which expects to put it back in place in the spring, when the building’s refurbishment is finished – perhaps with a letter from Boston’s current mayor, Martin Walsh, for future Bostonians to enjoy.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Time capsule buried by Paul Revere, Samuel Adams sees light of day
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today