BOSTON (RNS) — When Thomas Lester began his job as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston’s archivist in 2014, he quickly noticed that many of the archdiocese’s bound archives containing centuries of records of sacraments performed by its clergy were beginning to fall apart.

“It was very obvious right from the beginning that these thousands of records were seeing a lot of use and being handled every single day. We were seeing broken bindings, fading ink, pages that were dried and flaking apart,” said Lester, a layperson with degrees in both history and archive management. “So I realized something had to be done soon.”

Three years ago, the archdiocese became the country’s first to undertake a major effort to make its archive, listing 200 years

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