Preserving America's Audio-Visual Heritage
Tucked deep into a mountain side near Culpeper, Viriginia, a former Federal Reserve facility in Mount Pony is being resurrected as the Library of Congress' new National Audio Visual Conservation Center (NAVCC). Purposefully facing away from Washington DC, the facility originally housed over $3 billion in coin and currency for the purpose of re-priming the American economy in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Decommissioned by the government in the 1990's the former currency storage facility is slated to open in 2006 as the largest archive of movie and music collections in the world.

Founded in 1800, The Library of Congress is the national library of the United States. The Library's 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. Being constructed through an extraordinary partnership with the Packard Humanities Institute, a non-profit foundation based in California dedicated to archaeology, music, film preservation and historic conservation, NAVCC construction costs total nearly $120 million.

To create this state-of-the-art facility, Smith Group, an architectural firm founded by Sheldon Smith in 1853, was selected to lead the renovation of the existing facility and construct a new and extraordinary addition. DPR Construction, responsible for the completion of this marvelous transformation, was even able to preserve the original Greek style design of the facility.

This "Cold War" relic turned high tech storage facility was broken down into two phases comprised of four building components. Phase I involved the repurposing of the original structure built in 1960 and turning it into the Collections Building, with over 55 miles of storage shelving, and the Central Plant - the electrical "heart" of the facility. The Collections Building's three story, 131,500 square foot, cast-in-place structure is completely underground, making it energy efficient and readily adaptable for low-temperature and humidity storage. These conditions are crucial for long-term preservation of priceless motion picture and recorded sounds. Phase I completed in August, 2005 and the Library has already begun moving its collections into the building.

Phase II, approximately 258,500 square feet, is the new addition to the 40-acre facility. Constructed of traditional castin-place concrete and steel metal stud framing, Phase II consists of the Conservation Building, the new Main Office Building and the Nitrate Vault Building. The Conservation Building will house administrative offices, preservation laboratories and a 200-seat theater to be used for public screenings, film festivals and premieres. The Nitrate Vault Building consists 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. For proper preservation and safety, the construction of the vaults themselves was one of the most crucial aspects of the facility.

Contracted by DPR Construction, JS Archer -- an expert in Commercial and Industrial door hardware, hired Krieger Specialty Products for the very precise work required on the doors to the Nitrate Vaults. Highly acclaimed as one of nation's leading blast door manufacturers, Krieger custom manufactured 124 interior blast-resistant doors with a 1.0 PSI rating. Each door was fashioned out of cold rolled steel and finished off with a vision light, a 3-hour fire rating and prime paint. Because the blast doors and frames were being custom designed to fit into existing openings, the project had a low tolerance for measurement differentials and required the up most design precision. As part of their overall quality service, Krieger has continued to remain on hand as the project progresses, to assure proper installation and to provide informational support as needed.

The nation's audio and visual collections are currently housed in seven facilities in four states and the District of Columbia, however, none of the current facilities are designed to meet the state-of-the-art environmental standards that will exist at the NAVCC. When all of the collections are finally moved in, there will be an estimated 4 million items in total, with over 1 million film and video items and nearly 3 million sound recordings. With an estimated growth rate of nearly 120,000 items annually, the facility is expected to be the home for the nation's complete audio-visual heritage for at least 25 years after move-in.
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