National Archives News

Fulbright Scholar Joins Heritage Science Lab

By Angela Tudico | National Archives News

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Fulbright Scholar Cancy Chu in the Heritage Science Research and Testing Lab at the National Archives at College Park. Photo by Lindsay Oakley.

COLLEGE PARK, October 5, 2022 —  The National Archives welcomed its first Fulbright Scholar in September. Cancy Chu, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Melbourne’s Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, joined the National Archives at College Park as the agency’s first Fulbright Scholar.

Trained in conservation and book arts, Chu will be with the agency’s Heritage Science Research and Testing Lab for the 2022–23 academic year. In that role, she will be testing synthetic paper to further her research on the conservation of the material in cultural collections. 

She hopes to determine the best methods for repair on damaged synthetic paper, which requires a different treatment than normal paper because of its plastic components. 

Chu’s previous research includes studies on stone or mineral paper, paper made from rocks rather than tree fiber, and the prevalence of plastics in Australian archives. The research Chu will conduct at the National Archives in the coming year dovetails with her Ph.D. research on the conservation of plastics found in paper-based collections

“Most people don’t realize there are plastic components in some paper records, and that adhesives and processes normally used in paper repair do not work,” explained Chu. “The work done here, applying scientific findings to conservation work, is exactly my area of interest, and the first day I felt right at home immediately.”

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Heritage Science Research and Testing Lab at the National Archives at College Park. Photo by Lindsay Oakley. 

These studies will be mutually beneficial to Chu and the National Archives, allowing Chu to draw on staff expertise in the Heritage Science Research and Testing Lab and to use the equipment there. In turn, Chu’s research pushes the lab into new territory.

“Plastics have been on our radar for several reasons, but I’d say this is new for us in terms of looking at how to repair them, especially when they are a mixed media with paper and other components,” said Lindsay Oakley, Director of Heritage Science Research and Testing.

The Fulbright-National Archives Heritage Science Fellowship was announced in January 2021 to connect a visiting Fulbright scholar with National Archives leaders to translate theory into practice in the National Archives’ state-of-the-art Preservation Lab.

“We are pleased to partner with the State Department and the Fulbright Program, and to welcome our first-ever Fulbright Heritage Science scholar to the National Archives,” said then-Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, at the time of the announcement. “As the lead U.S. Government agency in archival science, research, preservation, and conservation, this initiative is a great way for the National Archives to continue to advance and support collaborative research and academic engagement, and to help shape future leaders from around the world in these fields.”

The Fulbright Scholar Program is currently accepting applications for the 2023–24 academic year Fulbright-National Archives Heritage Science Fellowship, a component of the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program. Applications are due October 15, 2022.