A friend of mine who works in a diocesan chancery sent me a copy of a reference guide about how to keep and care for parish sacramental records. Very cool. Very informative. The 1983 Code of Canon Law requires that all parishes keep sacramental records, or registers, in actual books which must be cared for. All sorts of sacramental information is to be stored by hand in these books as a permanent record. Scripta manent.
Care for the books might deal with situations in which damage occurs. Say, for example, there is a fire or a flood and the parish registers are damaged by water. How do you rescue the books and the precious information within? Ink can run when wet, paper can fall apart or mold.
Here is a tip I learned from this guide, which was prepared with the help of professional archvists.
Water damage is the most likely severe damage a register could suffer.
If the book is only damp or partially wet, stand the book upright on its bottom or top edge (with wettest edge down), with the covers open at a 90 degree angle. If the book won’t stand up, lay it open flat, and use clean, all white paper towels to absorb as much water as possible by blotting. Do not scrub the pages or covers to get out more water.
This may smear the ink. Air dry in a room with low humidity and good air circulation.
Do not have a fan blowing directly on the register.
If the book is very wet: close it, wrap the book in wax paper and place it spine down (making sure the covers are supported) in a freezer. A sub-zero commercial freezer is best, but a home freezer works too. The book must be placed in the freezer within 48 hours of getting wet.
Freezing stabilizes the book: mold growth will be stopped, ink will not run, and dye transfer and swelling will be reduced.
Very interesting and useful!
There are sites of libraries which deal with this too. However, it is important that people who work for the Church understand these things.