Securing America's AV Heritage
A Cold War Bunker Buried in a Mountain is Repurposed with Blast-Resistant Doors
Tucked deep into a mountainside, a former Federal Reserve facility located inside Mount Pony, near Culpeper, Virginia, has been resurrected as the new National Audio-Visual Conservation Center (NAVCC) for the Library of Congress.
Purposefully positioned to face away from Washington D.C., the campus was a high-security Cold War era storage facility to protect the nation’s coin and currency in the event of a nuclear attack. Decommissioned by the government in the 1990s, the former currency storage facility has been transformed into the largest archive of movie and music collections in the world.
The Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (MBRS) holds not only the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of film, television, radio and recorded sound, but is also responsible for the preservation of over half of America's audio-visual heritage. It was constructed through a partnership with the Packard Humanities Institute, a non-profit dedicated to archaeology, music, film preservation and historic conservation, and construction costs total approximately $120 million.
To create this state-of-the-art facility, the architectural firm Smith Group was selected to lead the renovation of the existing facility and construct an extraordinary addition. DPR Construction, responsible for the completion of the transformation, was even able to preserve the original Greek style design of the facility.
The plan to convert the Cold War relic to a high-tech storage facility was broken into two phases comprised of four building components. Phase I involved repurposing the original structure built in 1960 into the Collections Building.
Keeping Cool and Dry
Phase II is the new 258,500-square-foot addition constructed of traditional cast-in-place concrete and steel metal stud framing.
Among the buildings housed in the addition is the Nitrate Vault consisting of two storage pods with a total of 124 vaults. Because cellulose nitrate film is flammable and highly explosive, it must be kept at a constant temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 6.0 grains of moisture. To ensure proper preservation and safety, the construction of the vaults was one of the most crucial aspects of the facility.
Contracted by DPR Construction, commercial and industrial door hardware specialist JS Archer hired Krieger Specialty Products for the very precise work required on the doors to the Nitrate Vaults.
Krieger custom manufactured 124 interior blast-resistant doors with a 1.0 PSI rating, a 3-hour fire resistance rating and prime paint. Because the blast doors and frames were custom designed to fit into existing openings, the project had a low tolerance for measurement differentials and required the design precision.
As part of their service, Krieger remained on hand as the project progressed to assure proper installation and provide informational support as needed.
The nation's audio and visual collections were housed in seven facilities in four states and the District of Columbia, however, none of those facilities are designed to meet the state-of-the-art environmental standards that exist at the NAVCC.