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Polish museum opens a 150-year-old time capsule – a window on the lives of 3 Wrocław neighbours

A newspaper from 1865 was found in the time capsule.
A newspaper from 1865 was found in the time capsule. Copyright Muzeum Archeologiczne Oddz. Muzeum Miejskiego Wrocławia / Facebook
Copyright Muzeum Archeologiczne Oddz. Muzeum Miejskiego Wrocławia / Facebook
By Elise Morton
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The time capsule was discovered in the mid-1990s, but was left untouched for decades. Inside, a letter and a newspaper offer a snapshot of life in 1865.

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When archaeologists were called to a street in the Polish city of Wrocław back in the 1990s, they didn’t think much of a seemingly innocuous metal tube they found, simply handing it over to a local museum. It wasn’t until this year that a key discovery was made: this unassuming tube was a time capsule.

According to a news release from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education on 2 July, experts from the Ossoliński National Institute were tasked with opening the time capsule – revealing the potential treasures inside, without causing inadvertent damage.

The time capsule was discovered in the mid-1990s, but was only opened this year.
The time capsule was discovered in the mid-1990s, but was only opened this year.Muzeum Archeologiczne Oddz. Muzeum Miejskiego Wrocławia / Facebook

"First we had to disinfect this capsule, and then think very carefully about what we could do here so as not to damage these delicate papers," said Katarzyna Kroczak, chief conservator of collections at Ossoliński.

When the cylinder was eventually cut open, researchers found two items: a newspaper and a letter.

The newspaper confirms that the cylinder dated back to 1865, while the letter – rolled up inside – offers a glimpse into the lives of three neighbours living in Wrocław at the time. In particular, the letter details a renovation project that was happening on a mediaeval water supply system on their street

"Inside there was a manuscript signed by three residents of Wrocław, three neighbours from Nożownicza Street, which commemorated the moment of hiding this time capsule. To confirm this moment of hiding, these neighbours also hid the Breslauer Zeitung newspaper from 1865 in this capsule," said Maciej Trzciński, head of the Archaeological Museum in Wrocław.

A letter from three neighbours was found inside the newspaper.
A letter from three neighbours was found inside the newspaper.Muzeum Archeologiczne Oddz. Muzeum Miejskiego Wrocławia / Facebook

Now the capsule and its contents are on display at Wrocław’s Archaeological Museum – proving how even the most seemingly humble discoveries can shed light on a moment in time.

"We can connect them with specific people who, in addition, left not only this trace, but we can also find their data in archives, link them with various other documents and reconstruct their lives," said Agata Macionczyk of the Archaeological Museum.

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