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1795 Boston time capsule opened

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BOSTON — Officials opened a time capsule in Boston Tuesday, more than 200 years after Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and William Scollay buried it there.

A 1795 time capsule buried at the Massachusetts State House by Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and William Scollay was opened Tuesday evening. The capsule was uncovered during repairs for a water leak at the State House last month.

It’s not the first time the box — a 10-pound object containing contemporary and historic paraphernalia — has been uncovered.

In 1855, during some other repairs, the box was removed and its contents cleaned, only to be put back in the cornerstone for almost 160 years. The box’s materials were noted in reports of the time.

But this time, historians have had the opportunity to go through the contents with modern tools. After its removal December 11, the box was taken to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, X-rayed and given a thorough once-over.

According to a news release, the X-rays revealed the box’s contents as a collection of silver and copper coins (dating from 1652 and 1855), an engraved silver plate, a copper medal depicting George Washington, newspapers, the seal of the commonwealth, cards and a title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records.

The removal took seven hours of painstaking work by Pamela Hatchfield of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

When workers investigating the leak stumbled upon the box, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who heads the state historical commission, called Hatchfield, the MFA’s head of object conservation.

“There was a big discussion about whether or not it should be removed,” Hatchfield said. But “because there was water infiltration in that area of the building, it was decided that we’d try to see if we could find it, investigate and see whether the box was still intact.”

According to Galvin, the box-shaped capsule was placed in the cornerstone in 1795 by Revere, the metalsmith, engraver and Revolutionary War hero; Adams, the brewer and governor of Massachusetts; and Scollay, a local developer, when construction began. Revere was responsible for overlaying the State House dome with copper.

The box may be put back inside the State House with new items. Either way, it’s a treasure.

“It is such a wonderful opportunity to connect all of this history with Boston and the museum,” Hatchfield told Baldwin.

The unveiling 

“Tonight is a new chapter in a story that began in 1795,” Malcolm Rogers, director of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, said Tuesday before the capsule was opened.

It took more than four hours for officials to loosen the screws on top of a time capsule they were set to open on Tuesday night, said Pam Hatchfield, the museum’s head of objects conservation.

Hatchfield said one of the tools she was using to remove objects from the time capsule was a porcupine quill.

“They said it was hermetically sealed, and I think they really meant it,” Hatchfield said as she slowly pulled out objects from the capsule.

As she looked at papers inside the box, Hatchfield said, “the paper is in amazingly good condition.”

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