Film preservation may not be the most immediately enthralling of jobs, but its importance is unquestionably vital. Reading Wired’s “Inside the Nuclear Bunker Where America Preserves Its Movie History” will let you know just how hard it is too.
Located in Culpeper, Virginia, the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation houses 1.4 million movie, TV and video recordings. Preserving these videos can be both difficult and expensive, costing somewhere from $10,000 to $100,000 and taking multiple years to complete. The process pays off, however, as it maintains some of the oldest and most important works to be documented on footage, including the original negative of 1903’s “The Great Train Robbery,” the first cinematic adaptation of “Frankenstein” in “Edison’s Frankenstein” and the truly classic “The Big Lebowski.”
One of the highlights of the article, which discusses the site’s history, contents, and choice and methods in preservation, is its portion on the Nitrate Film Vault. Here’s an eye-popping snippet that shows just how difficult this safekeeping is: “While cellulose nitrate can be an extremely robust long-term storage medium… it does have some unique and undesirable properties. Namely, it explodes. And decays. And catches fire. All with surprisingly little provocation. Also, it doesn’t need oxygen to burn (it conveniently supplies its own), can’t be put out once it does start burning, and it exudes nitric oxide as it deteriorates, which causes an autocatalytic reaction that hastens decay even more.”
Click here to read the article on Wired.