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Saturday, August 20, 2016

152 year old time capsule found

Basia Baklinski, conservator from Lang Pioneer Village Museum, handles the time capsule.
Basia Baklinski, conservator from Lang Pioneer Village Museum, handles the time capsule. (Sheridan Graham/Peterborough County)

A time capsule from 1864 that was discovered on the site of the former County Court House jail was unsealed Friday. It contained items such as coins, photographs, county council minutes, and newspapers.
The green-tinted glass jar was found Wednesday under a cornerstone of the structure.
It was placed there on June 9, 1864, when the jail was being built. At the time, Peterborough was yet to be declared a city and Canada's Confederation was still two years away.
The partial demolition of the historic jail is underway to turn the space into a park.
County Warden J. Murray Jones said they had no idea the capsule existed until an old Peterborough Examiner newspaper article was brought to their attention.
"That was the first we'd heard of it," said Jones, who helped unveil the capsule Friday along with other dignitaries.
The Examiner article, dated the same day the capsule went underground, stated that a, "hermetically sealed box," was going under a "ponderous cornerstone," at the "south east angle."
The wording made the search a bit tricky, Murray said.
"It took us a bit of time siphoning out the clues to the location," he said.
After about six weeks of looking, the search almost came to an end.
"We were about to give up on it," said Murray.
Then, on Wednesday, the team decommissioning the jail found that "ponderous" stone, a three-by-three-foot limestone block. And underneath it, a deteriorating steel panel, covering an eight by 10 inch hole.
About 50 people gathered at the back the County Court House Friday to watch as the capsule made its way back to the surface after 153 years underground.
"We get an unbelievable opportunity to touch history of Peterborough County," Murray said.
Afterwards, items were removed one by one by conservator Basia Baklinski and placed on table in county council chambers.
Three photographs were first to be pulled from the jar. Once unrolled, the browny-yellowish prints revealed images of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church and Central School, the courthouse and Auburn Mills, a former wool mill. Next came a large blue sheet of paper, with faint writing that appeared to be list of politicians of the time. A copy of the Peterborough Examiner dated June 9, 1864, and a copy of the Peterborough Review from June 3, 1864 were also inside. A total of five coins fell out, including two large pennies, and 5, 10 and 20-cent pieces.
County council minutes from Jan. 26, 1864, and what seemed to be two business cards were also inside.And there's still two more items that didn't make it out. They were too damp and difficult to remove. One is a small dictionary and the other is believed to be an almanac for 1864.
Baklinski was going to wait for them to dry out and try again. Moisture encased in the jar actually worked to help preserve the items, she said.
"The paper is damp, so that allowed it to be rolled out. If it had been crisp and dry, we wouldn't have been able to roll it," she said.
Baklinski has been a conservator for about 20 years and works with Lang Pioneer Village Museum. Opening a time capsule from the 1860s was a first for her Friday, and an experience she won't soon forget. Items from the time capsule will be preserved and then displayed in the County Court House.
Meanwhile, Murray is already pondering what they'll be putting in next year's time capsule to mark Canada's 150th birthday.They'll be dropping the new one in the same hole the one from 1864 came out of.
 Other artifacts were also unearthed during the demolition that came from the same time period. None of which have any value but they provide a small window into our past, something I have always found fascinating. Having been on a couple of digs when I was very young, I learned the thrill of making an interesting find.  Usually only pottery shards or tools,  but was like reaching back in time and touching the hand of the person who last laid them down.

peterborough time capsule
Items included minutes of Peterborough County Council, coins, photos, a copy of The Peterborough Examiner newspaper, and other documents. (Sheridan Graham/Peterborough County)

peterborough time capsule
The copy of The Peterborough Examiner was dated June 9, 1864. (Sheridan Graham/Peterborough County)

Items retrieved during demolition of the Peterborough Jail on Friday August 19, 2016 in Peterborough, Ont. before the time capsule buried in 1864 was opened at Peterborough County Courthouse. Clifford Skarstedt/Peterborough Examiner/Postmedia Network
Artifacts from under Peterborough Jail

Time capsules have always been popular in Canada. In fact, our family has left a couple at houses that had happy memories for us, fifty years ago and forty years ago respectively. Someone will have a nice surprise and a few good laughs when they are found. One is hidden in a wall and another in the garden.  The fascinating thing about the Peterborough capsule is that the items have not been seen or touched by human hands for 152 years ... even the air in that jar was from 1864. There is a time capsule somewhere under the parliament buildings in Ottawa. I think it may be under the Peace Tower. Fun, eh??

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