RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The removal of the Robert E. Lee monument starts Wednesday, and as part of that process, a time capsule believed to be inside will be taken from the statue’s pedestal and given to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
In its place, a new time capsule filled with things meant to capture the last 18 months will be placed inside the pedestal. The capsule includes items that reflect the pandemic and protests for racial justice.
Those items include the photo of a Black ballerina taken by local photographer Marcus Ingram in front of the monument, Kente cloth worn at the 400th commemoration of 1619, “Stop Asian Hate” fliers, LGBTQ pride pins, an ERA sash and an expired vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The full list of items is available here.
“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,” Ingram said. “I am hopeful that future generations will see my photograph and understand what we stood up for.”
The new six-inch-tall time capsule was made by local sculptor Paul DiPasquale in a matter of days.
“I like to fix things,” he told 8News. “But it’s always more gratifying to come up with a new invention and, better still, if it can inspire in the realm of art, instead of just utilitarian function.”
According to the governor’s office, a team of historians, cabinet members and cultural experts worked to select 39 items to be placed into the pedestal for future generations to learn from.
All of the items either reflect the global pandemic or a reckoning with racism and other forms of discrimination.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam stated that the Robert E. Lee statue and original capsule reflect 1890 Virginia and are no longer indicative of the state’s values.
“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” the governor said. “It is fitting that we replace the old time capsule with a new one that tells that story.”
The 2021 time capsule will include a list of the items added to the one from 1887. Historical records state that the copper time capsule was put in the monument pedestal on Oct. 27, 1887 and included 60 objects added by 37 Richmond residents, organizations, and businesses. It is speculated that many are related to the Confederacy.
“The 1887 capsule we will remove this week offers us an incisive bite of time when the Lee Monument was erected. Now in 2021, this capsule gives future Virginians artifacts of the tectonic transition that has happened to us,” DiPasquale said. “The pedestal marks the past and has a new message for the future: we, all of us, are the New Virginia.”
The stainless steel time capsule was closed on Tuesday by Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam and Dr. Janice Underwood, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for the Northam administration. DiPasquale then sealed the bottom of the box with caulking and screws. He said that argon gas will be used to rid the capsule of what oxygen remains inside to prevent deterioration of the items within.
“Nobody sees the time capsule, so it’s hidden,” DiPasquale said. “But at this moment, there’s been a tectonic transition for our culture, certainly for Virginians, and, very definitely, for Richmond, and Black Lives Matter is the new pedestal.”
On Wednesday, DiPasquale said he will be on Monument Avenue to help take down the Robert E. Lee statue and its plaques, as well as the time capsule. He told 8News that the new time capsule will be placed inside the pedestal on Thursday.
“That statue deserves to be studied and understood,” DiPasquale said. “To destroy it would be a mistake, in my opinion. But also, as a sculptor, it would hurt my feelings. But as a human being who supports inclusion of all races in our country of America, it hurts my feelings, were it to stay up as a symbol to be celebrated, with regards to the Civil War.”
DiPasquale said he is looking forward to the new Monument Avenue and the different appearance it will have when the historic street’s last standing Confederate statue comes down.