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Preventing and Reporting Public Records Disasters/Emergencies


In the case of a public records disaster or emergency, please contact the State Archives and Library Conservation Lab at 317-591-5220 as soon as possible for assistance in salvaging records and discussing conservation possibilities. Agency personnel have experience in disaster recovery of paper, film, and electronic records, and are available to assist the public in the event of disaster. If you are seeking immediate assistance outside regular business hours, please contact an expert trained in the salvage of cultural materials via the American Institute for Conservation’s Cultural Emergency Response Team 24 hour free hotline at 201-661-8068.


  1. Never store records in a basement or attic.
  2. Never store records near water pipes or air conditioning.
  3. Never store records near a heat source-the ideal climate for records storage is between 65 and 70 degrees, 55 percent humidity.
  4. Store records away from light: sunlight fades and damages records.
  5. Wash hands before handling records: natural oils from your skin contaminate records.
  6. Keep copies of critical records at a separate location, or share with relatives.
  7. Do not tape, paper clip, staple, or fold records.
  8. Never use ballpoint or felt-tip pen to label records.
  9. Always use a soft, number-two pencil to label the backs of photographs.
  10. Always place plastic covers over computer equipment when not in use.
  11. Damage to computers, disks, and peripheral equipment requires professional restoration. Do not attempt to use your equipment after a disaster as any damage to equipment could cause further harm to records.
  12. Be sure to migrate electronic records when you install new software on your computer.

Salvaging Water-Damaged Items

In an effort to aid residents and businesses across Indiana suffering from flood damage, the Indiana State Archives is providing the following information to assist in preserving records and minimizing the damage. State Archivist Jim Corridan has also established a special phone line at the State Archives to aid local governments attempting to salvage official government records:

317-591-5220, ext. 376.

Mr. Corridan has asked the academic community and public libraries to assist in efforts required to salvage public institutions' documents and records. "We all need to work together to save important parts of Indiana’s past as called upon and it may require the efforts of hundreds." The State Archives with assistance from the State Library is spearheading this effort.

How to deal with flood damaged pictures, documents and books:

If your items can be dealt with immediately:

Carefully rinse silt and mud off of item with clean water if possible. If this is not possible very gently brush sediment off items. It is crucial to completely dry or to freeze items as quickly as possible to avoid the growth of mold. Photographs should be removed from frames or frozen in frames. Books, papers and home made print-outs of digital photographs can be safely dried in a place where air is circulating (i.e. not in a tightly closed room). Place plain paper towels in between approximately every 15 pages or less and change out with dry paper towels as they become saturated. To dry photographs that have been professionally developed, place wax paper in between each photograph as they are drying, or lay the photographs out individually. Be aware that photographs may curl if dried in this manner, but can be flattened later. Smaller books can be stood on end on a flat surface with the pages fanned open to air dry. Only use this method if the book is strong enough to stand open in this manner. Books and magazines with glossy paper must be opened so that every page remains separated while drying to avoid the pages becoming stuck together.

If items cannot be dealt with immediately:

Wrap in plastic each book or stack of papers no more than an inch high and freeze. Professionally printed photographs should be isolated between layers of wax paper before freezing. Freezing inhibits the growth of mold. Items can be thawed at your convenience until the pages or photographs can be separated without tearing and then dried in the above manner.

Continue to dry items in your preferred method at least 24 hours beyond the point at which they seem dry to touch. If items are affected by mold, do not attempt to clean them yourself as the mold can be a health hazard; consult a conservation professional.

Further information is available from:

Northeast Document Conservation Center - Emergency Management Publications

The State Archives and State Library Conservation Lab

Indiana State Archives
Indiana State Library
140 N. Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Seth Irwin, Conservator

General Preservation

Preservation & Conservation Services assists Indiana government in general with the preservation of delicate records.

Conservator SA 1-17-2019