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Contents of time capsule under Douglass statue likely not salvageable

City of Rochester

The material found recently inside a time capsule underneath the base of the Frederick Douglass statue in Highland Park is likely not salvageable. That word came Friday from City Historian Christine Ridarsky.

She says the city had a conservator go through the material in the badly damaged copper box, some of which dates back to 1898. But Ridarsky says the paper materials insider were badly waterlogged.

“Even under the best of circumstances we would have expected some moisture damage; unfortunately it was a very wet location and it appears that probably the contents have been saturated with water, from almost the beginning,” Ridarsky said.

Ridarsky says the city will contact a company that does a freeze-dried process to try and preserve the material.

“Essentially we have what looks like a pile of pulp; looking at the box, there were some things that you could sort of pick out; you could see some little bits of newspaper, little pieces of print here and there, but the conservator ultimately decided that nothing is going to be salvageable on an individual level,” Ridarsky said.

She says the good news is that historians have a pretty good idea of the printed materials that was placed in the box, but it would have been nice if it had been in better shape.

“Certainly we would, from an intrinsic value, love to hold those pamphlets that Susan B. Anthony provided. I personally would love to see the letter, there’s supposed to be a letter in there from Haiti. Frederick Douglass was a minister to Haiti; Haiti donated a thousand dollars toward the statue, originally,” Ridarski noted.

The statue was originally located on St. Paul Street and in 1941, it was moved to Highland Park. Officials are now moving it to a more prominent location in the park.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.