With more than 3 million sound recordings and a million-and-a-half films and videos, the Library of Congress holds the largest audio and visual collection in the world. Imagine 100 miles of shelves and state-of-the-art preservation efforts. That’s what we recently saw at the Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Va.
As a report about audio preservation released earlier this year details, historic sound recordings nationwide continue to be lost or degraded. Researchers estimate more than half of the oldest recordings have already been lost. To staunch the loss and ward off “cultural amnesia,” the Library has proposed bold steps to coordinate the efforts of some 14,000 public and private institutions in its preservation efforts.
Patrick Loughney, the executive director of the center, told us: “This is really the mother lode of audio-visual cultural history in the United States, but there is a great need. There is generally a great concern in this country about preserving great municipal buildings, about open spaces that make America great, like Yellowstone Park and the Everglades and all the natural areas. This is akin to preserving that kind of material when we talk about preserving sound and recording history. And it is taken for granted.”
Gene DeAnna, head of the recorded sound section, showed us the evolution of sound formats and how they enabled new and improved recordings — and access:
Videos edited by Victoria Fleischer.
Watch Tuesday’s PBS NewsHour for our full report about the Library of Congress’ preservation efforts.
Read our recent post about the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.