If you would like to see how the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration restores and preserves old records, especially fire-damaged documents, you should watch a YouTube video.
The video even shows how the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) can scan and digitize fire-damaged documents that are blackened so much that the text is not readable by the human eye. The digitization process can actually read black text on black, fire-damaged paper.
NOTE: You may remember the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) had a huge fire on July 12, 1973. It was not until July 16, nearly four and a half days after the first reports, that the local fire department called the fire officially out. Millions of military records were damaged or destroyed by the fire, by water from the firefighting effort, and by mold after the file. You can read more at https://www.archives.gov/personnel-records-center/fire-1973.
The video is several years old but the information in it appears to still be current.
Here is the National Archives’ description of the video:
“Go behind-the-scenes to see NPRC’s new state-of-the-art preservation lab. In 1973 a fire in NPRC’s former building destroyed 18 million military personnel files. Six million more were recovered with varying degrees of fire and water damage. As individual files are requested, preservation technicians painstakingly treat the documents for damage and mold. Preservation officer Marta O’Neill and her staff demonstrate the arduous work required to preserve these permanent records of the United States. The preservation lab also treats archival microfilm, an extensive process shown in the video. In the digital section of the preservation lab, military personnel files of “Persons of Exceptional Prominence” are scanned and the images transferred to CDs. In this manner frequently requested records are removed from circulation and preserved, even as their contents are made available to the public. And in a startling display of digital technology, viewers see how text seemingly lost to fire damage can be restored to legibility.”
You can find the video at YouTube.com/watch/?v=2xNvAudiRwU or in the video player below: