The Cornerstone Box: The discovery of a hidden treasure inside the VHS
Have you ever wanted to leave a time capsule for the next generation? For me, it was always more about opening it than leaving the items behind, but maybe I’m a little greedy. Earlier this month I got my wish when we opened up a one-hundred-year-old copper box that was left in the cornerstone of the Confederate Memorial Institute (CMI), now the headquarters of the Virginia Historical Society. On May 20, 1912, during the ground breaking ceremony of the CMI (also called Battle Abbey), several members of the Confederate Memorial Association, who oversaw the planning of the institute, left items that they thought were important during their time. Now, one hundred years later, VHS staff have uncovered the items in the cornerstone box. Among the perfectly preserved materials are postcards, Confederate documents, newspapers, photographs, plans of the building, and several other items.
These items are a great addition to our collection and relate directly to our mission, which states that “by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the Commonwealth’s history, we link past with present and inspire future generations.” The items have not been accessioned yet, but there is still a chance to see the area where the cornerstone box rested since that spring day in 1912. Several news stations and blogs have picked up the story, (Richmond Times-Dispatch and fredericksburg.com) so I’ve decided to focus on the process that went into getting the box. I’ve created a slideshow on the different phases of the cornerstone box removal and unveiling. From this you can see that with a little hard work and determination you can uncover a hidden historical treasure. The first part was demolition of the area where the cornerstone was. That part of Battle Abbey is now the first gallery in The Story of Virginia, our permanent exhibition. The second step was to carefully open the cornerstone box, and the final step was the removal of the items inside.
So, the next time you think about creating a time capsule, don’t get discouraged about leaving stuff behind but think of future generations that will find joy in both the process of finding and removing the capsule and also discovery of the treasures inside.