Surprising Finds

A surprising treasure trove of artifacts from the early 19th century sat patiently behind a college building, waiting to be discovered under only a few inches of dirt.

Alison Bell, associate professor of archaeology, with a sampling of artifacts from the Robinson Hall site. Photo courtesy of W&L University

Alison Bell, alumni, associate professor of archaeology and chair of Historic Preservation & Archaeological Conservation Advisory Committee, paid a visit to the site before the construction crews began working on renovations of the historic Robinson Hall at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. She was shocked to find numerous artifacts simply scattered in the lawn behind the building. Bell returned in a few days with more help and organized a full blown archeological dig. What they unearthed during 3 days of digging, were literally hundreds of artifacts which, Bell believes constitute only about a third of the site. Some objects date from the early 1800s, with some later ones that date to the Civil War. Household and personal items, school lab supplies and much, much more, which allowed a good glimpse at the academic experience in one of the earliest colleges in the country. Negotiations are underway to continue digging in hopes to add to the already impressive collection.

A complete penknife from the early 1800s was among the items uncovered on the site. Images courtesy of W&I University.

After thorough cleaning and sorting (same grid on a smaller scale was used for temporarily storing the artifacts as was for digging them out), archeologists concerned themselves with a proper way to preserve found treasures. We totally approve of their choice of archival quality Top View Artifact Boxes, which allow convenience of being able to view and display collections while avoiding the necessity of extra handling.

Hidden Treasures

Brooklyn College Time CapsuleIn 1955, “Before a sun-soaked crowd of 1,500 viewers,” the Brooklyn College president Dr. Harry Gideonse, who served from 1939 to 1966, and Brooklyn Borough President John Cashmore placed a watertight copper box into the cornerstone of what was to become the Walt Whitman Hall.

More than 50 years later, a construction crew, demolishing the Hall to make way for the new Center for Performing Arts, discovered the hidden treasure and brought it to light. Among other things, the box contained some Brooklyn College memorabilia, President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration commemorative medal and some personal items of then college president Dr. Gideonse. All items were sent to the college library’s archive to be preserved and placed in protective enclosures before becoming available for public viewing. All the items appear to be in great shape and represent a great piece of the college’s history.

Time CapsuleThis Top 10 Incredible Time Capsules list on Listverse.com recounts some of the most grandiose and ambitious projects of this sort. But you don’t have to be part of a large Japanese corporation or Space Program to create a very special Time Capsule for your descendants. Although it is not strictly an “archival” preservation method, no truly valuable family heirlooms should be put in the capsule. Make sure both the capsule and your items are absolutely dry. Avoid staples, paper clips and rubber bands and separate the items as much as possible, reducing the risk of interaction of various materials. That said, some appropriate ephemera, photos, mementos and personal items will most certainly create a great educational and emotional “present” for future generations!