Today is the anniversary of Marbury v. Madison, a case that established the right of the courts to determine the constitutionality of the actions of the other two branches of government. This was an important step to creating “checks and balances” to prevent any one branch of the Federal Government from becoming too powerful.
This historic document bears the marks of the Capitol fire of 1898, in which a gas explosion and fire damaged the original north wing of the Capitol, where records of the U.S. Supreme Court were stored. Roofs above the Statuary Hall wing and original north wing were rebuilt to include fireproofing. The risk to government records stored in attics of Congress and even in the White House garage lead to the construction of the National Archives building in DC, a state-of-the-art fire-proof facility in the 1930s.
As you can see, information that is lost to fire cannot be replaced. The document was stored folded (in a tri-fold fashion), which caused more damage than if it had been stored unfolded. It was later laminated to keep it intact.
In part because of our experience with fires in our past, we are always thinking about how to safeguard records for the future. National Archives facilities have records emergency plans in place that assess risks to the records from hazards such as fire, flood, water leak, pipe burst, and earthquake, just to name a few.