Washington Monument time capsule on display at The Walters


The 100-year-old time capsule, recently discovered in Baltimore’s Washington Monument, will be on display at the Walters Art Museum until it is opened in late May. Since January 2014, the Monument, the first to George Washington in the United States, has been undergoing a $5.5 million restoration by the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy.

The time capsule, discovered on October 16, 2014 by George Wilk II of Lewis Contractors, was revealed on October 29 and immediately moved to the nearby Walters Art Museum for safekeeping and study.

Installed in a niche in the wall of the Washington Monument during its Centennial celebrations in 1915, the capsule was placed behind a bronze plaque commemorating the Monument’s 100th anniversary, and then forgotten. Wilk discovered it while investigating the condition of the plaster behind the plaque.

Contemporary accounts of the time capsule suggest it contains commemorative materials relating to the Washington Monument as well as materials relating to the 1914 Star-Spangled Banner Centennial Celebrations.

“We are repeating history,” said Lance Humphries, Chair of the Conservancy’s restoration committee. “The Monument’s future centennials will always follow close on the heels of the centennial of the Star-Spangled Banner.”

The box is labeled by the J. Arthur Limerick Co., a prominent metal smith shop, which was located not far from the Monument on Howard Street.

Because the Washington Monument has endured decades of water infiltration, conservators were concerned the contents of the box might have suffered from moisture. Once the copper box was fully revealed, conservators discovered that the lid had been completely soldered to make the box airtight.

“After taking an x-ray of the box and receiving the results, we are confident the contents are in good condition,” said Terry Drayman-Weisser, Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director of Conservation & Technical Research at the Walters Art Museum. “We hope that everyone will come to see the time capsule at the Walters before it is opened later this spring.”

The Conservancy will open the box closer to the Monument’s bicentennial, at which time the box and its contents will go on loan to the nearby Maryland Historical Society. The items will be on exhibition there during the Monument’s rededication on July 4, 2015, when it will be reopened to the public.

“After the time capsule has been opened we are pleased that its contents will be on display at the Maryland Historical Society,” said Burt Kummerow, the Society’s President.

The Society owns the original construction documents for the Washington Monument, including Robert Mills’s competition-winning drawings. During the Monument’s bicentennial, a selection of these rare documents will be on display at the museum.

The Monumental Bicentennial Celebration, produced in partnership with the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, will include a ribbon cutting, a naturalization ceremony, and an old-fashioned country fair presented by Bank of America and the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy. The festivities will take place July 4, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in historic Mount Vernon Place.