It was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie or a Discovery Channel special, with all the anticipation of an important find — in the middle of a church basement.
Leaders of First Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City recently teamed with the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Oklahoma Archeological Survey at the University of Oklahoma to uncover clues about a time capsule buried in the downtown church's basement, 1300 N Robinson.
A large concrete slab covers the vault-like structure that houses the time capsule, officially called the “First Lutheran Church Century Chest.”
The Rev. Jerry Peterson, the church's senior pastor, said the concrete slab had been covered with floor tile until six months ago. Wednesday, Peterson gathered with representatives of the state agencies with special equipment designed to scope out the exact location of the chest.
“This is new,” Scott Hammerstedt, a research archaeologist with the Oklahoma Archeological Survey at OU, said Wednesday.
“In fact, if you had told me in the late '80s when I started archaeology that I would be doing a project in a church basement, I would have been skeptical.”
Peterson said the time capsule will be the focus of a ceremony set for April 22, 2013, exactly 100 years after it was sealed and buried.
Peterson said the 100-year-old time capsule contains a plethora of city and state history, including American Indian artifacts and historical documents, pottery made from Oklahoma soil, commemorative plates and other memorabilia, photographs, recorded speeches (for a phonograph) by noted historians and civic leaders, a phonograph, clothing and copies of a special Century Chest edition of The Oklahoman.
He said the church plans to unearth the chest sometime before the ceremony and show the items found within during the special event.
Peterson said Wednesday's sleuthing project was part of the church's effort to find out more about the time capsule to compile information for the people who will be tasked with getting it out of the ground.
Peterson said several holes were recently drilled into the concrete. Wednesday, Hammerstedt used ground-penetrating radar to help discover the specific location of the chest. Peterson said church leaders 100 years ago placed the chest in a copper box and sealed it with concrete as a preservation measure.
Hammerstedt said the equipment he used Wednesday is widely used for various projects such as the search for unmarked graves and a current project regarding the Spiro Mounds near Spiro, in eastern Oklahoma.
With information provided by Hammerstedt, Andy Slaucitajs, an independent videographer who works part-time for the Oklahoma Historical Society, placed an endoscope in each of the drilled holes to get a glimpse of the inside of the structure containing the chest.