Library of Congress, Packard Campus

For work this past weekend, some colleagues and I traveled to Culpeper, Va to tour the Library of Congress’ image, film and audio archives in Culpeper, Virginia.  It’s kind of geeky, but for us film preservationists and archivists, it’s truly awesome.  If you think you were impressed with some of the shots I’ve posted of NFL Films, prepare to be overwhelmed with dorky overload.


This is the exterior front door. The building was built partially out of the remains of a secret bunker that housed currency for the federal reserve during the Cold War. This is part of the new construction.



The first stop on our tour were the nitrate vaults. Nitrate film, manufactured in the early days and for the first half of the last century, is extremely hazardous. It spontaneously combusts, and burns quickly, even when completely submerged in water.



As a result, many of the gems of history have perished in huge warehouses on the lots of film production houses. At the Library of Congress, all nitrate films are stored in sealed, concrete vaults, isolated from one another, and closely guarded with fire suppression systems. At NFL Films, when we find nitrate film, we ship it the hell out, right to this place.



This is a mish mash of audio recording gear. I suppose they sometimes use this stuff, but it's really just to showcase some of the historic audio equipment that they've acquired.



This is the black and white processor. This is particularly interesting for me. Its very informative to see how other labs navigate the delicate problems that can arise with these machines. There is a no-error necessity, and half the work is done in the dark.



in the center of the complex, they have a sort of museum that showcases some old projectors from the early days of film.



I'm thinking that they don't use this one to project images so much anymore.



A shot of the underground stacks. This vault is part of the old bunkers that were built under a hill. It's all concrete. This room was huge and kind of looked like the final shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark.



film that is not nitrate (usually safety film) is stored here. We only got to go into one of them, but there were literally at least 60. This is the main hallway.



a shot not unlike the one I took of our own vault back in Mt Laurel. Very organized and unending.



remember, this is the inside of one of many. The temperature hovers just above freezing, so you better know exactly what you're going in for and where it is. Not a place to browse too long.



The building was built by David Woodley Packard of Hewlett-Packard fame. It was then donated to the government as the largest ever private gift to the Legislature. Ivy has begun to cover the building and it will eventually stealth the campus into the hillside, much like the secret bunkers hid themselves earlier.



out in the center, there is a fountain (not working in this picture). Being pretty close to Washington D.C., and having underground, concrete bunkers makes this fountain look suspiciously similar to an emergency helicopter pad.



They have a beautiful theater and actually showcase some of their treasures regularly to the general public.



I imagine it's quite relaxing to work here everyday. The building is very serene and laid back. It looked pretty damn stress free, with great benefits courtesy of tax payers.



Culpeper, Virginia! My future home if the NFL Labor dispute lasts a long time.




One Response to “Library of Congress, Packard Campus”

  1. steve hansen Says:

    what a lovely bldg i wish i could drive to culpeper to watch films but it’s so damn far

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