Metro

Time capsule hidden in lion statue becomes subject of documentary

The iconic statues of a lion and a unicorn atop the Old State House on Washington Street in Boston were hoisted down from the rooftop perches last September.

Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

The iconic statues of a lion and a unicorn atop the Old State House on Washington Street in Boston were hoisted down from the rooftop perches last September.

The public will get another chance to view the rare artifacts pulled from a time capsule hidden for more than a century in the head of a golden lion statue atop a downtown Boston building.

On Thursday, the Bostonian Society is hosting the world premiere screening of a short documentary film called “Secret of the Lion,” which follows the discovery and unveiling of the relics stashed inside the statue that’s perched on the Old State House.

Advertisement

The nine-minute film chronicles how the time capsule went from Boston legend to international sensation. At the screening, guests will also be able to feast their eyes on the items from the capsule, including photographs, newspaper articles, a letter to posterity, and a red book called “Foreign Relations of the United States in 1896.”

The film features an interview with the great-great granddaughter of Samuel Rogers, the man who put the time capsule together before placing it in the lion and securing it to the building in 1901.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“Basically, we talked to everybody involved, and a few of the main people beforehand,” said Jonathan Bekemeier, who directed the film. “We also went to the opening of the actual capsule, and talked to some people after.”

The time capsule was opened in October 2014, one month after the Bostonian Society had both the lion and unicorn statues that adorn the western facade of the building removed for restoration.

News articles dating back to 1901 had indicated that the capsule was wedged inside the lion’s head, but the rumors weren’t confirmed until the statue was thoroughly inspected by historians and archivists.

Advertisement

Officials from the Bostonian Society initially feared that the items would be weathered and in poor condition, since they had sat there for more than 100 years.

But when the capsule — a small copper box — was finally cracked open, archivists were shocked to find that nearly everything inside was in good shape.

“The remarkable thing about the materials we found inside is that they all looked brand-new,” said Brian LeMay, executive director of the Bostonian Society. “There was a campaign button, and it was as bright and shiny as if you had bought it from a sidewalk vendor. And all the papers we feared would be brittle were in absolutely perfect shape.”

LeMay, who got a sneak peak of the documentary, said the film takes an “interesting mystery approach.” He said viewers also get a glimpse of the personalities within the Bostonian Society’s organization.

Seating for the event is limited, and guests must register in advance if they hope to reserve a spot. The short film will be shown at 8 p.m., according to organizers.

Bekemeier said the film was selected for this year’s Atlanta ShortsFest film festival. The director has also submitted it to several other film festivals across the country, including the Boston International Film Festival, which takes place in April.

“We’re really excited about how it turned out,” Bekemeier said.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.
Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.