First thing to emerge was a soaked copy of a special Bicentennial Edition of the Daily Progress.
If any water-proofing sealants had been applied to the Charlottesville time capsule dug up Sunday afternoon, they weren't evident during the public ceremony at which an array of water-soaked items were plucked from the 50-year-old metal box.
One after another, soggy papers and moist memorabilia were extracted from the container, which was unearthed from under nearly a foot of concrete, since one sidewalk had been built atop another.
"We should not be critical," said Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society board member Preston Coiner.
"The science of time capsules has changed a lot," agreed the Society's president, Steven Meeks.
The question of exactly where the capsule was located had vexed City officials for much of the past two years, but Crozet resident Tom Hartsell seemed to definitively answer the question after rummaging through his father's old 8mm films. In the silent segment he uploaded to YouTube last August, a beauty queen and an array of officials, all white of course, bury the capsule just outside the back door of the Charlottesville Circuit Courthouse.
Charlottesville City Councilor Kristin Szakos took subtle note of her womanhood and seemed also to hint that the mayor, Satyendra Huja, a Sikh who was absent due to travel, appears somewhat different from the city fathers of the Kennedy Era.
If the looks are more diverse, the dreams might be the same, as the May 27 event's final speaker, Charlottesville's first African American city manager, Maurice Jones, spoke of his childhood expectation that we'd all be flying around with jet-packs by now.
The unearthing was part of an array of events celebrating Charlottesville's 250th anniversary, and Historical Society's Coiner noted that the next Charlottesville time capsule will be planted December 23 and marked with granite.
"Take care of yourself," Coiner implored the crowd, "so you can say you were involved in two or three different time capsules."
Afterwards, Meeks said that the box appeared to have been sealed with tar which "just failed."
"What really was a tremendous loss," said Meeks, "were the letters and the personal documents. We'll never know what people were trying to say to us."
Asked whether storing artifacts outdoors is the best policy, Meeks concedes that the city of Lynchburg has achieved good results with a time capsule simply stored in the attic of a local museum.
–additional photos (all visible at link near top) shown 10:37am, Monday, May 28
–final three paragraphs and photo added Tuesday, June 5 at 9:48am