Unlocking the origin of the Library of Congress’s “Packard Campus” in Culpeper

Courtesy of Wikimedia

As a person interested in library and archival science, I sometimes get email alerts from the Library of Congress. One of them mentioned the “Packard Campus.” I looked it up briefly, and found a Library of Congress page describing it as a ” state-of-the-art facility where the Library of Congress acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts, and sound recordings,” with the campus covering “415,000 square feet, more than 90 miles of shelving for collections storage, 35 climate controlled vaults for sound recording, safety film, and videotape, 124 individual vaults for more flammable nitrate film” and even having a “206 seat theater” which began in 2007. But the origin of how this facility got the name of Packard was absent. I then proceeded to put it on the back burner, until I looked into it further and recognized  the origin of  the name.

Mount Pony, as it was apparently called, was opened in December 1969, coming about as “a result of fear during the cold war that a nuclear war would destroy the economy of the United States,” housing enough “U.S. currency to replenish the cash supply east of the Mississippi River following a catastrophic event,” a bunker of the Federal Reserve. In 1993, the bunker was decommissioned, sitting abandoned for four years, while the Library of Congress faced a storage crisis. It was then that David Francis, a top individual in the Library of Congress, “heard about the empty bunker in Culpeper and saw a chance to consolidate the audiovisual collection under one roof,” seeing it as an opportunity to “start fresh.” In order to acquire the building, the investment came from David Woodley Packard, the “son of Hewlett-Packard cofounder David Packard” whom had bought the property in 1997 on behalf of the Library of Congress, spending millions building a “state-of-the-art facility.” [1] In July 2007 it was fully donated to the Library of Congress, being the “second-largest private-sector gift to the federal government” other than Wolf Trap and the Smithsonian Institution is the biggest. In addition to the $160 million spent by David Woodley Packard, Congress appropriated about $100 million from 2007 to 2011.

Today, the facility, officially called the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, located in Culpeper, Virginia, it serves as “the nation’s premiere storage and preservation facility for audio, visual and recorded sound,” with wonderful efforts going on to this day. Over 1,100 of their items are available on the Internet Archive for public viewing. This connects with its massive digital storage capability. It also serves a sort of tourist attraction now.

This facility is one important for U.S. history, since it is “equipped with technology old and new that will be used to preserve and duplicate America’s creative history of film, video and sound recordings, and make it accessible to the public.” [2] Additionally, this trove of information is “available to anyone, free” but access is “because of the complexities of copyright law…restricted to the library’s reading rooms in Washington and Culpeper.” In an interesting feature, the Packard campus even has a green roof!

And that’s it about the Packard campus. Until next time, adieu!


[1] Also, the Packard Humanities Institute (originally funded by the Packard Foundation) pitched in.

[2] Andrea Hsu, “Library of Congress Adds Audio-Visual Campus,” NPR, Aug 23, 2007; Randy Lewis, “Library of Congress builds the record collection of the century,” LA Times, May 8, 2011; Allison Brophy Champion, “‘The ultimate library for our nation’s treasures’,” Culpeper Star Exponent, Feb 20, 2018; Anthony McCartney, “Library of Congress vaults preserve, protect movies,” AP, Aug 25, 2012; Jason Daley, “The Library of Congress Needs Your Help to Identify These Silent Movies,” Smithsonian, Jun 10, 2016; Michael Anderson, “Music Diary Notes: Library of Congress and Sony Music team for ‘National Jukebox’ Archives,” May 12, 2011; Rob Beschizza, “Digitizing the past and present at the Library of Congress,” Boing Boing, Jun 9, 2010; “UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP DONATES OVER 200,000 MASTER RECORDINGS TO THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS,” universalmusic.com, Jan 10, 2010.

3 thoughts on “Unlocking the origin of the Library of Congress’s “Packard Campus” in Culpeper

  1. Your research skills continue to impress me. And the Packard campus sounds like a tourist attraction this tourist would like to visit. I once took Joey Novick to the Museum of Broadcasting (now called the Paley Center for Media) in NYC to view an episode of a groundbreaking TV series called East Side, West Side. It ws groundbreaking because it starred a black woman and white man (Cecily Tyson, George C. Scott) and because it was the first TV drama to address issues like abortion, city slumlords, suicide, criminal justice reform. Joey was briefly in an early episode of the show when he was a child actor, and hadn’t seen the episode since he was about 10 years old.


  2. Pingback: Packed with Packards and existing social hierarchies | Packed with Packards!

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