Conservators at the State Archives in Jefferson City have been working to preserve everything that came out of the time capsule removed from the State Capitol last week.
Dozens of books and newspapers, pictures, and at least one unexpected item, a brass tube, were taken out of the time capsule sealed in the State Capitol cornerstone in 1915.
Senior Conservator Lisa Fox says she was surprised at their condition, having worked with 100-year-old capsules before.
“Way too often, water has penetrated the box and we encounter just slime and mold, and virtually nothing salvageable,” Fox told Missourinet. Instead, she found the capsule’s contents largely dry.
The team will use various measures with each item. The newspapers could require the careful addition of moisture to keep the pages from cracking when unfolded. Envelopes that have been sealed for 100 years will also require some water.
“Because the envelopes are sealed and we’re conservators, we don’t just grab a letter opener to open them,” said Fox. “We’ll introduce sort of some humidity to be able to open up the envelopes in a non-destructive way and then remove the contents and see exactly what’s in them, and see how that matches up to what was written on the outside.”
“Two or three of those things were supposedly addresses by various dignitaries and I don’t know if transcripts exist elsewhere of those,” Fox added.
She says the item that seems to have aroused the most curiosity is that brass tube. It’s engraved, “East Gate Lodge #630 – A.F. & A.M. Kansas City, Missouri.”
“What was it used for? Is anything in it?” Fox says people want to know. “I tried to sort of gently rotate it to see if anything was moving inside, like if there had been soil or grain or anything like that,” said Fox.
She says researchers are calling Masonic lodges to see if there is a record of it. Meanwhile, the Archives’ staff is debating whether to open it.
Fox says special care will be needed for the books found in the capsule, some of which did have dormant mold.
“The paper in those books is mostly in pretty good shape, but we have a chemical fume hood and we work with the books in there. Vacuum the dormant mold spores off and we have some dry methods of cleaning the mold off,” said Fox, who said special lights will also help remove the musty, moldy smell of the items.
She says while handling objects that have been sealed away for 100 years, she does feel a sort of connection to those who last touched them.
“While we were … not opening the newspapers but separating the stack so we could see which newspapers did we have and which towns and dates, and they were all June 23 and June 24, 24 being the date of the cornerstone laying. Then in the middle of the stack there’s one dated May 11 of 1915, and immediately I asked the person beside me, ‘May 11? What is that?’ Then I turned it over to the right side of the front page and in blue pencil someone had written, ‘Article on Page 4 about Capitol,’ and I just felt it was like a handshake across the century.”
The items from the capsule will eventually be featured in a display in the State Museum, housed in the Capitol. A new time capsule will be sealed in the cornerstone in a ceremony July 3.
Earlier story: GALLERY: Contents removed from 1915 Missouri Capitol time capsule
Missouri Office of Administration’s photo gallery from the capsule’s opening