Dr. Billington has announced that the David and Lucile Packard Foundation has given the Library a grant of $10 million to begin development of a state-of-the-art National Audio-Visual Conservation Center on a site near Culpeper, Va.
The grant includes funds for the foundation to acquire, on behalf of the Library of Congress and the Architect of the Capitol, the 140,078-square-foot building and 41 acres now owned by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
The acquisition was authorized by PL 105-144, which was signed into law by President Clinton on Dec. 15, 1997. The Culpeper property will enable the Library to develop a central storage and conservation facility that will accommodate all the Library's audiovisual collections and to design new specialized preservation laboratories for all its audiovisual media.
The existing building was originally built in the 1960s as a back-up operations center for the Federal Reserve in the event of a Cold War emergency. The three-story building is almost completely underground, making it energy efficient and readily adaptable for low-temperature and humidity storage -- the conditions needed for the long-term preservation of the Library's priceless motion picture and recorded sound collections.
Dr. Billington greeted news of the Packard Foundation grant, saying, "For more than 50 years, the Library has sustained the most active publicly funded acquisition and preservation program for motion picture and recorded sound materials in the nation. The Library's present research collections of film, television, radio and recorded sound items are the largest and most comprehensive in the world. Through the generosity of the board of directors of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the support of the U.S. Congress, the Library will now be able, for the first time in its history, to plan with the Architect of the Capitol for the construction of a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the long-term conservation of our national audiovisual heritage. The new facility will be known as the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center and it will serve not only the storage, preservation and access needs of the Library but also, we hope, eventually provide similar services to other American nonprofit audiovisual archives."
Dr. Billington added special personal thanks to David W. Packard, saying, "We are greatly indebted to the foundation for its generous gift and to David for his pioneering commitment to film preservation at the Library and other American film archives. His leadership in presenting classic films in their original format at his unique Stanford Theater in Palo Alto, Calif., has set the standard for repertory theaters throughout the country. On behalf of Congress, I want to express the deep appreciation of the nation for his taking the lead in providing a national center to preserve this important heritage for future generations."
The Library of Congress, through the activities of its congressionally mandated National Film Preservation Board, National Film Registry and American Television and Radio Archives, leads the nation in preserving America's moving image and recorded sound heritage.
The Library acquired its first motion pictures in 1893 and its audiovisual collections have grown continuously ever since. Today, the Library's motion picture collection totals more than 1 million reels of film and more than 500,000 television items. Its holdings of radio broadcasts exceed 600,000 and sound recordings more than 1.5 million items. These materials are currently stored in a number of Library-owned and -rented storage facilities in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio.