On July 12, 1973 a devastating fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis destroyed approximately 16-18 million Army and Air Force Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) from the early and mid-twentieth century – 80% of the total military personnel records of this time period. During the salvage efforts following the fire approximately 6.5 million records were recovered. OMPFs are commonly requested by government agencies and individual citizens for the purpose of obtaining veterans' benefits and researching personal or family histories. In 2015 a multiple spectrum imaging workflow was put in place to digitize the most heavily damaged records as they are requested – records at a condition level that formerly prevented their being accessed by requestors. Digital versions are provided in lieu of originals for these requests. To counter information loss in charred record pages, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) utilizes infrared imaging as part of the process. This paper describes the production imaging project now underway, with particular attention paid to the unique requirements of photographing brittle and charred originals. The author shares information about the overall strategy, methods to prepare records for imaging and a photographic technique to maximize content recovery.
Noah Durham, "Burned Record Imaging at NARA" in Proc. IS&T Archiving 2016, 2016, https://doi.org/10.2352/issn.2168-3204.2016.1.0.6