Crews Roll Out Red Carpet for Film Conservation Center

Wed November 24, 2004 - Southeast Edition

CULPEPER, VA (AP) The Library of Congress’ National AudioVisual Conservation Center, scheduled to be completed in May 2006, will be “a mega Blockbuster” with 56 mi. of shelf space for America’s film library.

The center will be a movie-lover’s dream.

“We have the original negatives of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman from the movie ’Casablanca,’” said Greg Lukow, chief of the library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. “We have film shot by Thomas Edison.”

Lukow and Assistant Librarian Deanna Marcum presented an overview last week of the partially completed $170 million project to a packed house of area community leaders.

“There is no place like this in the world,” Rep. Eric I. Cantor (R-7th), told the crowd. He jokingly referred to the center as “a mega Blockbuster.”

Construction of the first phase of the project at the old Federal Reserve Bank site east of Culpeper began in August 2000. The Federal Reserve storage area, which was all underground, was unearthed and refurbished.

This will become the Collections Building, which will store nearly 3 million sound and radio recordings and more than 1 million films. More than 18 million feet of vintage Fox Movietone newsreel film will be among the items stored.

The Collections Building opens in May. The Conservation Building, now under construction, will be completed a year later. It will contain offices, restoration facilities and a 200-seat movie theater that will host public screenings as often as three times a week.

When two smaller storage pods are finished, the Library of Congress will have a 400,000-sq.-ft. facility unlike any other in the world.

David Woodley Packard and his philanthropic Packard Foundation purchased the site in 1998 and formed a partnership with the Library of Congress. The foundation is spending $120 million to build the center to Library of Congress specifications.

When completed, the facility will be turned over to the federal government. While the Packard Foundation is footing the construction bill, Congress has earmarked another $50 million for equipment and set-up costs.

While the center will not be open to the public on a daily basis –– at least not at first –– there will be opportunities for movie historians from all over the world to get a glimpse of what goes on at the center and to attend screenings in the theater.

“We’re taking an if-you-build-it-they-will-come attitude,” Lukow said. “We will try to accommodate whatever interest there is.”

When complete, the huge Library of Congress center will be all underground (for climate control and protection) except for a terrace.

“We are hoping that this will make Culpeper a destination for film buffs from all over the country,” Marcum said.