We can read history books and watch documentaries to help us understand our heritage, but every now and then something turns up which helps us comprehend what was important to a past culture. A 113-year-old time capsule was recently discovered in an outdoor statue on the property of Boston’s Old State House. People watching this story are anxious to know what is in the time capsule, so as to understand what was important to the Boston community in 1901. Personally, I want to know how well kept these time capsule contents appear. The articles were placed in a sealed copper box which was then stored inside the lion’s head statue displayed outdoors in an atmospheric climate with four distinct seasons and located on a turbulent ocean. I see this as a magnificent study in copper as a packaging protector.
The ceremonial opening of the copper box showed a red covered book with paper wrapped items tucked around the book’s perimeter. Of course, we cannot know what the articles looked like going into the box and statue. Now the book looks clean without any staining, no discoloration, in fact it looked to have had crisp coloring. Considering we can see in the photograph, the book appears to be in pristine condition. The paper surrounding the book looked off-white, which would have been the color of wood fiber papers of the era, and that looked to be in fine condition. In studying the photograph for mold and mildew on the papers, I could see no evidence.
The Boston Historical Society did not open the items inside, and will not until they can bring the box to their climate controlled labs. To conclude this study, we will have to wait to learn of the condition of any metal items inside.
The coloration of the opened copper box itself was copper colored on the inside and black on the outside. That is the copper process when exposed to atmospheric gases. Copper reacts with corrosive gases, (sulfurs and chlorine) causing the copper color to turn dark brown, then black, then the green patinas will grow (copper oxide). On first analysis, it appears to be that copper was the proper choice of materials to package this time capsule. The black indicates a sacrificial reaction with the atmospheric gases that would have attacked and damaged the items instead. Because copper is an anti-microbial, there was no indication of mold or mildew. Copper is an amazing metal; truly a gift to mankind.
You might wish; “If only there were an economically sound packaging material that could use the same concepts to protect American manufactured products shipped and stored all across the globe.” There is, and it is called Intercept Technology plastic packaging, which uses highly reactive copper particles bonded within flexible plastics to protect products. Intercept works just like the copper box time capsule.