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Time capsules give up their long-held secrets

Published: 6:00AM Tuesday April 12, 2011 Source: ONE News

No treasures were found when the contents of time capsules discovered in the ruins of buildings and monuments after Christchurch's February earthquake were revealed.
The three time capsules had become symbols of hope, connecting Cantabrians to their past as they contemplate the future after the devastating quake on February 22.

Hopes were high, of treasure, an object of some sort, as Mayor Bob Parker opened one of the capsules, an old copper pipe, at Canterbury Museum this afternoon.

"It smells like an old garden shed," he said. "Oh what's in there?"

But aside from a plumber's tag - the plumbers probably provided the pipe - the capsule held only newspapers from 1918, 1922 and 1933.

"I think obviously what we have got is just newspapers of the period. There's no treasure maps in here," said Parker.

The Press, The Star, The Sun and the Lyttelton Times all offered glimpses into life of the day.

Spotted by a crane operator at work in Cathedral Square, the capsules were exposed when the statue of Canterbury's founder John Robert Godley was rocked from its plinth in the quake.

Contractor Sean Haggarty said nobody knew the time capsules were beneath the toppled statue.

"Godley had been lying on his face for a week. The rest is history."

Parker admitted to a twinge of disappointment that there was nothing left by the early settlers who first commissioned the statue in 1867.

One of the capsules unearthed under the statue is believed to have been there since 1918. The other is understood to have been placed in the statue's plinth in 1933.

A third capsule, a tin box found in rubble at the old Civic Building on Manchester Street, held promise.

"This has got a number of things here," said Parker, opening the box.

But it delivered more papers. Parker revealed it contained the Christchurch City Council's balance sheet and statements for the year ended March 31st 1921.

"No notes from the auditor. Some things never change," he said.

The tin box also delivered memories, including an old photo of Christchurch Cathedral - with a spire. The spire came down when the Cathedral was rocked by the quake and badly damaged.

The copper tube and tin box opened today have been kept under controlled environmental conditions at Canterbury Museum since their discovery and will be examined further.

But some want them reburied and updated when the Godley Statue is reinstated.

"And we have to hope, I suppose, that they never have to rediscover these time capsules in the same way," said Parker.

The contents of a glass bottle capsule - containing the vellum manuscript - was also available for viewing today for the first time.

The Canterbury Museum sustained some damage during the quake and is not currently open to the public but staff are hopeful it will be in a few weeks.