Time capsules have the thrill of treasure, wonder and history. They bring the past to the present in an almost magical way. For an American, it can’t get better than an 18th century box buried by revolutionary heroes Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and William Scollay. What did these icons think we should rediscover?
We now know, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) and its many photos that reveal the time capsule’s early-American artifacts to include coins, newspapers, a medal and more.
The MFA and Commonwealth of Massachusetts teamed up Tuesday to open and unveil the contents of the now famous capsule which was placed in a granite cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House in 1795.
Excavated on Dec. 11, 2014 for only the second time in more than 200 years, there was already some ideas about what to expect. The cigar-sized capsule was X-rayed on Dec. 14, 2014. The presence of coins was obvious.
And intriguingly, there is also an account of the artifacts from a document penned in 1855 when the time capsule was last unearthed. Back then, its contents were cleaned, with additional items added and then placed in a brass box. There’s a bit of extra fascination here for coin collectors. As a part of the reburial ceremony for good luck, five 19th-century silver coins were inserted during the setting of the plaster which encased the capsule. Those coins were also recovered on the 11th.
Opened Tuesday night for the first time in nearly 160 years, the time capsule weighing 10 pounds and measuring 5.5 x 7.5 x 1.5 inches contained:
- Silver and copper coins, dating from 1652 to 1855
- Silver plaque thought to be engraved by Paul Revere
- Copper medal depicting George Washington
- Paper impression of the Seal of the Commonwealth
- Calling or business cards
- Title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records
There is little specifics yet about the types of coins and their dates, with available photos of the coins too low of quality for identifications. It appears that there are about two dozen of them to include a Pine Tree shilling, half cent, large cent, half dime, dime and quarter-dollar.
Pamela Hatchfield, the museum’s conservator who freed the capsule from the cornerstone last month, and Annette Manick, the museum’s head of paper conservations, are overseeing the conservation treatment of the artifacts.
The items will be publicly displayed until their reburial at the Massachusetts State House. One or more new objects are likely to be placed in the capsule, adding mystery for later generations to uncover.
Here are some additional photos taken during and after the capsule opening: