Huge Archive of American Films–From Casablanca to Gigli–Are Protected & Preserved in a Nuclear Bunker

We’ve been giv­en to under­stand how impor­tant it is that our top elect­ed offi­cials dis­ap­pear into bunkers if the coun­try is attacked. But in the event of a cat­a­stroph­ic nuclear bomb­ing, what hap­pens to the country’s cul­ture, its shared lit­er­ary and artis­tic arti­facts? What hap­pens to nov­els like Rid­dley Walk­er (a favorite of Antho­ny Burgess) or films like the Mad Max series, both of which describe post-apoc­a­lyp­tic land­scapes near­ly wiped clean of the traces of hun­dreds of years of human civ­i­liza­tion? Maybe it’s a depress­ing ques­tion, but in the case of Amer­i­can cinema—as campy as Mad Max Beyond Thun­der­dome or as clas­si­cal­ly smooth as Casablan­ca—learn­ing the answer will not bum you out.

You’ll like­ly find your­self riv­et­ed by the video above from Great Big Sto­ry, a quick tour of the Library of Con­gress’ Packard Cam­pus. The Culpeper, Vir­ginia com­pound, orig­i­nal­ly designed to pre­serve gold and maybe the Pres­i­dent, is now pressed into ser­vice as a bomb-proof film archive.

You may be relieved to learn from film archivist George Wille­man that a post-cat­a­stro­phe U.S. will not have to rebuild with­out clas­sic Bog­a­rt per­for­mances to draw from. Per­haps that new soci­ety could do with­out copies of Gigli or the films of Adam San­dler, but that’s an opin­ion the future is free to dis­re­gard, should such ter­ri­ble things ever come to pass.

But be not bummed, the Packard Cam­pus does much more than pre­pare for the worst. Archivists and tech­ni­cians there spend their days sav­ing the best of film his­to­ry, “pre­serv­ing and restor­ing film reels,” reports Indiewire: “The bunker has a suite where tech­ni­cians do noth­ing but repair films, it also has spe­cial­ized rooms for print­ing, film pro­cess­ing Dat­aCine trans­fers and cylin­der record­ing. There are also video play­ers that can play any sort of for­mat that they need.” The com­pound will also hold par­tic­u­lar appeal for fans of Bru­tal­ist archi­tec­ture that appears to be aban­doned to the ele­ments. Hav­ing dri­ven by the bunker many times—and only recent­ly learn­ing what it was—I can tes­ti­fy to the impos­ing bulk and seem­ing ruina­tion of its above-ground floors, which we only get a glimpse of in the first few min­utes of the video. Inside, it’s a film his­to­ri­an and archivist’s dream.

For more films that would hope­ful­ly sur­vive an apoc­a­lypse, see our col­lec­tion: 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More

via Indiewire

Relat­ed Con­tent:

New Archive Makes Avail­able 800,000 Pages Doc­u­ment­ing the His­to­ry of Film, Tele­vi­sion & Radio

The His­to­ry of Stop-Motion Films: 39 Films, Span­ning 116 Years, Revis­it­ed in a 3‑Minute Video

Free: British Pathé Puts Over 85,000 His­tor­i­cal Films on YouTube

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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