Audio Storage at the Library of Congress’s Packard Campus
The collection storage facilities of the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center (NAVCC), headquartered at the Library's Packard Campus near Culpeper, Virginia, are located in a former underground bunker that had once served as a cold-war era continuity of operations (COOP) site for the US Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Located 75 miles southwest of Washington, DC, the Packard Campus was constructed on a 45-acre site on Mount Pony near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The former Federal Reserve facility was decommissioned by the federal government in 1993. In 1997, the US Congress passed legislation that authorized the construction of the new NAVCC – Packard Campus through a unique partnership between the Library of Congress and a private-sector benefactor, the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI). The goal was to create the first centralized facility in America specifically designed for acquiring, documenting, storing, preserving and providing access to the world's largest and most comprehensive collections of films, television programs, radio broadcasts, and sound recordings. Completed in 2007, with design and construction costs provided by the PHI, the NAVCC opened that year as the largest facility of its kind, a state-of-the-art center incorporating new capabilities and capacities that were unprecedented within the global audiovisual preservation community.
Recorded sound materials are acquired in a variety of ways, including as Copyright deposits, gift donations, or purchases.
Once an audio collection arrives at the Packard Campus, the materials are sorted by format, counted, and accessioned into the Recorded Sound collections.
The room above is one of the spaces in which audio collections are accessioned.
In addition to audio materials, the Recorded Sound Section also receives manuscript collections. Additionally, many audio collections arrive with accompanying documents. The room pictured below shows one of the spaces where manuscript materials are organized and processed prior to being moved to the vaults.
Often before audio elements can be put away into storage—or even cataloged—they must first be assessed for any conservation needs. These evaluations and repairs might involve anything from cleaning to splicing tape to baking audio tape in a convection oven. These tasks take place in rooms such as the two pictured below. (The blue tubing hanging from the ceiling in the photo on the right are exhaust vacuums intended to draw away from workers any fumes from solvents or cleaning fluids).
Next, collection items are either entered into the cataloging/description queue or placed in cold storage vaults, to be pulled back at a later date for cataloging.
The Packard Campus facility consists of 415,000 square feet with a total of 200,000 square feet allocated to climate-controlled storage vaults.
Below is the view down the main hallway corridor of the second floor of the Packard Campus Collections Storage Building. This floor has 17 vaults dedicated to the storage of the Library's recorded sound collections each furnished with high-density, mobile compact shelving.
Below is the view of one of the doors to one of these vault spaces.
All manner of recorded sound materials are housed in the Packard Campus vaults, including compact discs, cassettes and cartridges, 45 rpm discs, 33 1/3 rpm discs, 78 rpm discs, wire recordings, ope
Because all audio is held in temperature-controlled vaults kept at a constant temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 30% relative humidity, recordings must first be acclimatized before being taken into work spaces and the audio labs.
Audio materials are acclimatized in the room pictured below, where they gradually come up to room temperature to avoid crossing "dew point," so condensation does not occur.
Should a staff member need to listen to a particular item from the audio collection, it would be pulled from the vault, acclimatized, and then listened to in a room such as one of the Packard Campus's listening suites, shown below.
In addition to preserving the physical items themselves in proper storage, the Library has taken on the goal of digitally reformatting its collection of Recorded Sound materials. Physical items are digitized and both high resolution preservation files and CD quality access files are created in the Audio Preservation Laboratory at the Packard Campus. These files are stored in state-of-the-art digital archive infrastructure at multiple locations, ensuring the security of the copies and providing fail-over storage in case of catastrophe. The access files, once ingested in the archive, become available for playback in the listening rooms in the Recorded Sound Research Center on Capitol Hill. Since the beginning of this work, over 84,000 reservation-quality audiovisual files (as of the end of 2018) have been created from physical collections, broadening accessibility and further ensuring the content is available for generations to come.