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PRTD Preservation Technician, Chris Bolser

Backgrounds as Vast as Our Collections: Chris Bolser

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The following is a guest post by Chris Bolser, a preservation technician in the Preservation Research and Testing Division at the Library of Congress.

Outside of work, I enjoy relaxing by playing video games and attending social gatherings with friends. I am an avid football fan, and also enjoy hiking and other sports such as rugby and baseball.

My educational background is in Forensic Science and Criminology from West Virginia University. I initially came to the Library of Congress as an intern during one of my summers at college to work on unique and innovative techniques that related to forensic evidence gathering and image processing techniques. I never imagined a career at a library working in cultural heritage, but I enjoyed my internship so much that I voluntarily returned for another internship the next summer before eventually applying for a full-time position after graduation.

Men in lab coats perform tests in a chemical lab.
Chris Bolser performs pH testing in the PRTD labs. Also pictured, Dr. Andrew Davis of PRTD.

 

Since returning to the Library as a full-time staff member, I have experienced a plethora of techniques related to my studies, as well as gained additional experience on instruments and processing techniques from outside of my background through the Quality Assurance Program (QAP) and in collaboration with other scientists and researchers. As of late, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the labs performing QAP testing, assisting with analytical research projects, collaborating on the development of new research methods, and working on image processing. As a technician, I tend to pick up whatever needs to be done and don’t stick to just one area of specialization, which keeps the days interesting.

A man leans over historic documents arranging them for preservation activities.
Left: Chris Bolser arranges a document for multispectral imaging; Right: Chris Bolser prepares a manuscript for protein analysis.

 

One of my favorite and more stand-out projects was a few years ago when we identified redacted text from Alexander Hamilton’s love letter to his then girlfriend, Elizabeth Schuyler. The project received a lot of publicity, and was even retweeted by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote a musical based on Hamilton’s life. Being able to see such a strong reaction from the general populace to the Hamiltons’ revived emotions is an experience I will not soon forget.

My advice for people considering a job with the Library is to not be afraid to try things you’re unfamiliar with. That’s how I ended up here and I have enjoyed my tenure so far. Along the way there may be times where projects and programs demand that I am put into positions that are uncomfortable or undesirable, but those moments provide opportunities and experiences that I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t willing to try new things. People coming into the field should have an open mind, willingness to learn, good communication, and a desire to try new things Don’t be afraid to bring new ideas and outside perspectives with you, as the heritage science field is ever growing and adapting. I kept an open mind to opportunities, and my education and experiences have translated well to working with the Library’s collections, providing me an array of opportunities to handle major and minor analytical requests, while carrying out the daily needs of the Library to ensure the protection of its collections.

 

Comments

  1. So interesting! Love the snapshots of behind the scenes work.

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