1887 Time Capsule — Including Lincoln Coffin Photo — Is Being Opened After Lee Statue Removal

Officials plan to install a new time capsule including an expired vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and a photograph of a Black ballerina standing in front of the Robert E. Lee statue with a raised fist

Richmond, Virginia Removes Statue Of Confederate General Robert E. Lee
The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee being removed from its pedestal. Photo: Bob Brown - Pool/Getty

A time capsule from 1887 is set to be opened following the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia.

On Wednesday, less than a week after Virginia's Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Confederate general's statue could come down, the monument was removed.

The removal process will continue on Thursday, when crews will remove plaques from the base of the monument, as well as the time capsule, which is believed to be located inside the base, per the government-run VaMonument2021 Facebook page.

Historical records have suggested that the capsule includes about 60 objects, "many of which are believed to be related to the Confederacy," according to a press release from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Among the memorabilia officials expect to find inside include a collection of Confederate buttons as well as a "picture of Lincoln lying in his coffin," according to TIME. However, historian and Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer previously told the Associated Press that the image is more likely to be a print of the former president lying in state or a sketch.

Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia
Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia. RYAN M. KELLY/AFP via Getty Images

In place of the original time capsule, officials plan to install a new collection filled with artifacts reflecting the changes Virginia has gone through in the past year and a half.

"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," Gov. Northam said in a news release. "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."

Some of the 39 items included in the new time capsule include an expired vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, a Black Lives Matter sticker, a Pride pin, as well as a photograph of a Black ballerina standing in front of the now-removed statue with her first raised in the air.

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"In the midst of demonstrations and reclaiming space, my photo of Black ballerina at America's largest Confederate statue made national headlines in June 2020, surprising and inspiring viewers," photographer Marcus Ingram said in a press release. "I am thrilled to have my print, my piece of history, be included in the new time capsule that aims to represent the Virginia of today."

"I am hopeful that future generations will see my photograph and understand what we stood up for," Ingram added.

City Of Richmond Plans To Take Down Statue Of Confederate General Robert E. Lee
Workers removing statue at the Robert E. Lee Memorial. Alex Wong/Getty

Last Thursday, Virginia state justices came to a 7-0 decision that determined that the statue from more than a century ago "communicates principles that many believe to be inconsistent with the values the Commonwealth currently wishes to express," NBC News previously reported.

Gov. Northam issued an order to remove the statue in June 2020, 10 days after the killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In response to the ruling, Northam issued a statement saying that the removal of the statue would allow for "a more inclusive future — where the Commonwealth glorifies the Confederacy no longer."

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