Class of 2014
History and Political Science Major
“History is real in that it’s not just something on a textbook page – it’s something that we're a part of,” said Chris Conte.
Chris has always enjoyed history. His first love was maritime history – the golden age of ocean liners of the 1920s and ’30s.
As a columnist for Veritas, the student-run newspaper, Chris wrote “Faces of the Past.” As part of his research, he would visit the College’s special collections in the Alexander Mack Memorial Library. There, archivist Stephanie Gardner tailored an internship for him.
The internship provided Chris with practical experience in many facets of preservation. Using a tiny vacuum cleaner with a filter, he learned how to perform the tedious task of cleaning books.
Bridgewater’s collection also contains vintage clothing from the late 1800s. Through research, Chris dated the pieces of clothing and identified the fabrics. He also was exposed to the art of mending and repairing vintage clothing.
In celebration of the Alexander Mack Memorial Library’s 50th birthday in 2013, Chris created a diorama of the library that measures three feet by four feet. By digging through the archives, he uncovered blueprints that helped him recreate the diorama as it was originally constructed.
Chris said he has gained an appreciation for the human element of history. One of his tasks was to sort through boxes that had come from a gentleman’s estate. All that was left of the man’s life fit in those nine boxes, including a birth certificate, his wallet, his degree from Yale Divinity School and old family photos dating back to the 1840s.
“It was very sad to understand that this was all that remained of this individual,” said Chris, “but it also gave me an appreciation for the brevity of life.”
Chris’ love of history and preservation reaches beyond Bridgewater College. Since April 2012, he has worked at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, Va. He gives tours of Wilson’s 12-room birthplace and assists at the front desk.
Keeping it all in the family, Chris also volunteers during the summers at the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace in Wytheville, Va. Edith Bolling was the second wife of President Wilson. The experience gives him a broad overview – seeing how the business is run, how the bills are paid, where revenue goes and how grants are written.
Chris has a passion for preserving the past – a passion he wants to continue for the rest of his life.