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Old Nuclear Bunker Has One of the Largest Film, TV Collections



During the 20th century, the United States built many bunkers – underground shelters that could save people during a nuclear war or other crisis.

Now, the U.S. government is using one of those shelters for a happier purpose: storing movies, television shows, and audio recordings for future generations.

Bunker in Culpepper, Virginia

The bunker was once under the control of America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve. It stored money and other materials in the case of a crisis.

About 10 years ago, the Library of Congress began using the underground space, which is about 120 kilometers from Washington, D.C. Architects designed new rooms and buildings that workers added to the existing structure.

The bunker is currently known as the Library of Congress' Packard Campus.

The Packard Campus covers an area of about 38,000 square meters, with more than 140 kilometers of shelving for storing the many recordings. It has 35 climate controlled areas and 124 individual storage rooms for flammable films.

The collection now has over six million movies, TV shows, and audio programs. Some of these films, such "The Great Train Robbery," are over 100 years old.

Preserving films for future generations

George Wileman
George Wileman

George Wileman has been working for the Library of Congress for over 30 years. Wileman says he has spent the past 10 years working in the underground film archives.

"My greatest love has always been early films - silent films. And here I was working with one of the largest collections of early film in the world. And I was like: "Well, maybe this isn't just an accident. Maybe this is where I'm supposed to be."

When films arrive at the Packard Campus, employees examine the recordings and make digital versions.

Some movies are damaged because they have been in contact with heat and moist, sticky air.

Wileman adds to the list of collected movies every day. He notes that the center even has some films you would not expect the government to save.

Hollywood remains at the center of the international film industry, and a sign of American culture. Its protection is important work for the Library of Congress.

I'm John Russell.

Karina Bafradzhian reported on this story for VOANews. John Russell adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

architect – n. someone who designs buildings and supervises building projects

shelvingn. a structure or place where things are kept

flammable – adj. capable of being set on fire and of burning quickly

archive – n. a place where public records or historical objects are stored

digital – adj. relating to an audio recording method in which sound waves are represented as numerical digits

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