< Go to Homepage

Library of Congress Preserves America’s Film Reels in Old Nuclear Bunker

Movies By
Films rest in just one of the many vaults at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, VA, February 10, 2011, which houses 6.3 million collection items (1.2 million moving image, 3 million recorded sound, 2.1 supporting scripts, posters, photos, etc.). Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center is a state-of-the-art facility where the Library of Congress acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts, and sound recordings. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
( Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

 

The Library of Congress’ National Audiovisual Conservation Center, where the library’s 6.3 million–piece film and sound collection is stored, used to be a Cold War survival bunker.

Per Great Big Story, the space was originally used to store $4 billion in gold currency and act as a contingency plan of sorts; had Russian bombs dropped at any point, the president and his cabinet would have been relocated to this bunker, which was set up to feed and shelter as many as 540 people for a month’s time.

Film Preservation Specialist Barbara Whitehead looks over an old splice in the silent film "Little Brother" during the inspection phase at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
Film Preservation Specialist Barbara Whitehead looks over an old splice in the silent film “Little Brother” during the inspection phase at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

 

The bunker was purchased by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 1997 and converted to a storage, processing, and restoring facility for film reels, including specialized vaults for highly flammable nitrate film stock. All told, the massive bunker is 15,000 square feet, and contains over 90 miles of shelving for its film archives.

Below, watch the Great Big Story tour of the facility with archivist George Willeman.