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Gov. Gary Herbert donned safety glasses and Kevlar gloves Monday to saw through a copper time capsule that had been buried for more than a century beneath a massive pillar supporting the state Capitol.
"We stand on the shoulders of giants and those who have gone before us, and I hope we appreciate that," Herbert said before sawing through the dented and discolored copper box with a power tool.
Inside was a series of coins, including a silver dollar from 1896, the year Utah was granted statehood; a copy of The Salt Lake Tribune and other yellowed and faded newspapers; a military roster; a copy of The LDS Biographical Encyclopedia; business cards and a union card from crews that helped build the building; and a program for the ceremonial laying of the cornerstone that was completed a century ago.
With live music, cupcakes and a handful of centenarians who Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox joked had aged better than the time capsule the opening marked a weeklong celebration for the Capitol that will culminate in a gala and fireworks Saturday.
Herbert said today's generation now has a responsibility to assemble a capsule for those Utahns 100 years from now. The governor said officials will listen to suggestions from across the state as they decide what should go into the roughly shoebox-size container.
"You're only going to have so much space. What would we want people 100 years from now to look at?" Herbert said, suggesting that maybe they should include something like a cellphone or tablet instead of newspapers. "Maybe 100 years from now there won't be any newspapers and people will say, 'What's this? You mean they used print and newspaper? How old-fashioned is that?' "
It's expected the new capsule will be reinterred in the hole crews spent days carving into the base of a massive pillar on the southwest corner of the Capitol's stairs.
John Lambert, CEO of Abstract Masonry Restoration, said it was "no small feat" to extract the small copper box from 3 feet of stone, and that there were numerous "leaps of faith" made along the way.
Crews used ground-penetrating radar to peer into each of the stone bases below the columns and detected an anomaly in one pillar, determining that it likely housed the capsule. They used core drills to penetrate into the stone, boring 2 feet into the rock before hitting mortar that they believed likely was encasing the box. They proceeded slowly through the mortar until they hit something that "sounded like a hollow metal drum."
"We were very, very fortunate to hit it the first time," Lambert said. "At that point, the work began and it took two days for a team of us [to drill a hole large enough]. I'm confident there were at least 50 core drills of various sizes that went toward the box."
Lambert used a pry bar to loosen the mortar to get it free, a little dented but otherwise intact, leading to Monday's event, during which Herbert carefully removed the contents under the supervision of state historians and spectators that included legislators and Attorney General Sean Reyes.