Library of Congress has new archive

The Library of Congress today will formally take possession of the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation, a $150 million gift from the Packard Humanities Institute that includes state-of-the-art facilities for storage and restoration of library collections.

The 415,000-square-foot Packard Campus in Culpeper, Va., which will consolidate audiovisual collections from across four states and the District of Columbia, is the largest-ever private gift to the legislative branch. It will be signed over by PHI President David Woodley Packard at a 6:30 p.m. ceremony in the library's Thomas Jefferson Building on Capitol Hill.

Since the 1990s, just about every division of the Library of Congress has been running out of space. Some 6 million items in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division collection were stored in seven locations in four states and the nation's capital. Movies had to be brought from as far away as Dayton, Ohio, if someone requested them at the division's reading room in Washington.

The Packard Humanities Institute found a decommissioned facility of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond near Culpeper that fit the division's needs for storage and new preservation technology. It originally consisted of a three-story building with vaults to hold stores of cash that could be used to restart the economy east of the Mississippi River in case of an attack on the country, as well as a records center and a secure retreat for the bank.

Congress approved acquisition of the 45-acre property through a PHI grant in 1997. The institute provided $155 million for design and construction of a new facility, and $80 million start-up operational funding. Remodeling of the original bunker and vault building and construction of a new physical plant and state-of-the-art conservation building began in 2003. The library's Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound division has been moving in little by little during the past year.

The facility has been supported since 2001 by $82.1 million in federal funds for operations, maintenance, equipment and related costs. The state-of-the-art facility comprises three main areas: a collections building where some 5.7 million items (1.2 million moving images, nearly 3 million sound recordings and 1.5 million related items such as manuscripts, posters and screenplays) will be housed under ideal conditions; a conservation building where the collections will be acquired, managed and preserved; and a separate facility with 124 vaults where nitrate films can be stored safely.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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