12 Apr 2017

Time capsule find hailed as 'significant'

10:27 pm on 12 April 2017

A capsule buried in Wellington for more than half a century might be returned to its resting place, after its secrets were revealed today.

The metal cylinder was discovered late last year during demolition work on the Bowen State Building near the Beehive.

The contents included building plans and photos of the building's construction during the late 1950s, as well as a newspaper, a magazine clipping and a handful of coins.

Contractors discovered the container behind a granite plaque in the high-rise's lobby.

Officials and reporters gathered at the construction site for the canister's opening today, as Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage Maggie Barry tried to pry out its contents with difficulty.

Upon realising that a stack of papers was stubbornly wedged, a worker stepped in to help with a pair of pliers.

The minister first loosed a clipping from the New Zealand Freelance magazine, dated Spring 1960.

"I can't believe there's a cigarette advertisement here. That really is a sign of the times!"

The contents also included a handful of pre-decimal coins and a copy of the Evening Post from July 1959.

Its front page featured rows of classifieds, but Ms Barry noted a headline on one page: 'Two Dogs and a Rabbit Into Space and Back. Russia Sends Up a Big Rocket.'

"Some random bride and groom were in there, recently married," she said. "What does it tell you about what sold newspapers and what interested people in those days?"

Also inside were photos of the tower in construction and a stack of "top secret" building plans, including its original specifications and a list of everybody who worked on it.

The items will now be inspected by Heritage New Zealand and Te Papa Museum for any greater significance.

They might in fact be returned to their original site, along with a new capsule to be buried before the building is reopened in mid-2019.

Heritage New Zealand head Andrew Coleman said the find was "really, really significant".

"This will tell a story of a building construction back into the late '50s, early '60s. It'll tell a story about people who worked on this site.

"Now we've got pictures of them at work. We've got pictures of what the building was meant to look like back then. It's a real commemoration opportunity."

Mr Coleman said time capsules were "in vogue" during the 1940s-60s and it was unfortunate they were less common nowadays.