National Archives News

New Fulbright Scholar Joins National Archives Heritage Science Research and Testing Laboratory

By Kristin Phillips | National Archives News

WASHINGTON, February 28, 2024 — A new Fulbright Fellow has joined the National Archives’ Heritage Science Research and Testing Laboratory with the intent to explore the degradation of modern textiles. Laís Feltrin Sidou, will spend the 2023–24 academic year focusing on modeling change and damage over time on both modern and contemporary textiles. She is specifically examining rayon, nylon, and polyester.

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Fulbright Scholar Laís Feltrin Sidou in the Heritage Science Research and Testing Lab at the National Archives at College Park. National Archives photo by Lindsay Oakley.

Sidou, a Ph.D. student in Social Memory and Cultural Heritage at the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil, will use the data collected to refine recommended environmental conditions for textile preservation. The National Archives might use these findings to influence future changes in policies and guidelines, like archival storage standards.

“The Heritage Science Laboratory contains the resources needed to gather data science on the long-term effects of light and chemical deterioration to these textiles,” Sidou explained. “This is important because we are able to create models that show future trends, which can then be used to create long-term plans for the care of these textiles.”

To conduct experiments relating to light degradation, one of the lab’s chemical fume hoods was converted to a large light box. For at least eight weeks, the fabric will remain under the intense light, and samples will be periodically removed to have their chemical and physical properties tested and monitored for changes.

Part of Sidou’s research includes collecting information from the public and those within the archival management field using surveys that contain questions relating to viewing an object in person and virtually (see below). The data collected will help determine how these groups value an object, if that is related to its primary use (research, exhibition or others), and indicate the expected versus actual lifespan of the object. 


Participate in Sidou’s Research

Two interactive surveys are currently open for public participation:

  • This survey asks questions about viewing an object in person (if visiting an exhibition, for example). 
  • This survey contains questions relating to viewing an object virtually, with instructions to access virtual exhibitions. 


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Fulbright Scholar Laís Feltrin Sidou prepares fabric samples for artificial aging in environmentally controlled ovens. National Archives photo by Lindsay Oakley.

“The data Laís will be collecting is extremely important to the Heritage Science Research and Testing Laboratory,” said Director of Heritage Science Research and Testing Lindsay Oakley. “The National Archives’ vast holdings include modern textile items. Laís’s research will directly impact the manner in which we store and display those items.”

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

“When looking over the applicants, Laís’s research and field of focus aligned with the strategic goals of the Heritage Lab,” said Oakley. “Our last Fulbright Scholar, Cancy Chu’s work focused on synthetic paper repair. It seemed like a natural progression to move to contemporary textiles, which include synthetic fibers.”

Sidou’s fellowship will conclude in August 2024. Applications are currently being reviewed for the 2024–25 Fulbright-National Archives Heritage Science Fellowship.