Museum of Fine Arts Boston Head of Objects Conservation Pam Hatchfield, right, displays objects removed a time capsule, Jan. 6, 2015, as Mass. Secretary of State William Galvin, left, and Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick, second from left, look on at the museum, in Boston.
Photo by Steven Senne/AP

1795 time capsule buried by Sam Adams and Paul Revere revealed

After 220 years, several artifacts, some of which date as early as 1652, have been unveiled by officials on Tuesday. First buried at the Massachusetts State House in 1795 by then-Governor Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, the original time capsule, which includes old coins and documents, was recovered last month during an inspection of one of the Statehouse’s granite cornerstones after a reported water leak. 

Before the capsule was revealed at the Museum of Fine Arts Tuesday evening, the museum director stated, “Tonight is a new chapter in a story that began in 1795.”

The contents of the 10-pound brass box, which include a collection of silver and copper coins, old newspapers, an engraved silver plate, a copper medal with George Washington on it. the seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records, took several hours to take apart. 

Pamela Hatchfield, the head of objects conservation at the Museum of Fine Arts, said that it took over four hours for officials just to loosen the screws at the top of the box. 

“Conservation happens at a glacial pace,” said Hatchfield. “If at any point we find things can be imperiled or damaged by removing them, we are going to have to stop. I do apologize in advance. We just do not know.”

Hatchfield added she was using tools such as a porcupine quill and her grandfather’s dental tool to slowly remove objects from the capsule. While looking at newspapers inside the box, she remarked, “the paper is in amazingly good condition.” 

The time capsule was removed from the cornerstone on Dec. 11, but this wasn’t the first time the box was unearthed. Officials said in 1855, the contents were documented and cleaned, and additional materials were added before it was sealed in the brass box and placed back in the cornerstone.

After its removal, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin called Hatchfield about the discovery. On Dec. 15, the time capsule was X-rayed and the MFA released a statement describing the historical contents. 

Secretary Galvin said the items would be on display temporarily before being placed back in the cornerstone at the Statehouse. 

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1795 time capsule buried by Sam Adams and Paul Revere revealed