In the heat of a D.C. summer, Jasper Forster (MSI ’24) stood in a high-security, temperature-controlled vault deep in the Library of Congress, surrounded by 1,700 flutes.
As part of the Junior Fellows Program, a competitive summer internship at the Library of Congress, Forster got an insider’s look at the library’s vast collections — including some national treasures. The Dayton C. Miller Collection, known by staff members simply as “the flute vault,” is the largest collection of flutes in the world. It made national news in 2022 when Lizzo stopped by to play a crystal flute that belonged to James Madison.
For Forster, a flutist, stepping inside the vault was a surreal moment. “Every flute player knows of it,” they said. “I walked in and I was overwhelmed. They had essentially every flute you could imagine.”
Forster studied music performance in undergrad, before coming to the University of Michigan School of Information to pursue a Master of Science with a focus on archives, library science and preservation. “I would love to combine my two degrees into one job,” they said. “That’s why this internship was important. It allowed me to do essentially what I want to do in my future.”
As a junior fellow, Forster worked in the music division, locating 20th century music manuscripts and reporting them to an online database called RISM (Répertoire International des Sources Musicales). He chose to focus on manuscripts by African American composers active from the 1920s to 1950s. By creating digital records, he enhanced the visibility of these manuscripts for users around the globe.
They hadn’t planned on pursuing an internship, but after reading the internship description that requested “a background in music history” and “the ability to organize data,” the opportunity seemed too perfect to pass up. They received funding from UMSI’s Barbara Yaney Palmer Experience Internship Award to defray living expenses, placing the internship in reach.
Forster’s internship gave him access not just to passcode-protected vaults, but to the actual experience of working as a music librarian — a career that he now has more confidence in pursuing.
“I feel very sure about what I’m doing now and what I want,” they said.