The exterior of the Library of Congress Packard Campus is pretty cool–lots of concrete and glass overgrown with vines, with a round reflective pool in the courtyard area. Despite what’s housed inside, the outside wouldn’t feel particularly out of place if it were featured on the History Channel’s “Life After People.” However, it’s best to admire it in photos, as my husband and I learned when we visited a week or two ago. The lesson we can now impart is as follows: just because the building is cool doesn’t mean you should walk around it. Just because you’re curious doesn’t mean you should walk around it. Just because there’s no sign that says you shouldn’t walk around it doesn’t mean you should walk around it.
Architectural curiosity (and a talking-to from Security) aside, here’s a little background on the who, what, where. According to their website, http://www.loc.gov/avconservation/packard/,this peculiar, slightly mysterious building-on-a-hill holds and houses the heftiest audio-visual collection in the world. That apparently amounts to 6,000,000+ moving images and audio recordings. To manage all of that media content, they have 35 climate-controlled vaults, and about 90 miles of shelving. (My husband and I have a combined book collection that sometimes seems to occupy only slightly less space. *Sigh*.)
In addition to storing the best movies ever made, Packard Campus screens (at no charge, first-come-first-serve) a few selections each week in their 205 seat, Art-Deco theater. This month began with a celebration of the life of Robin Williams (“Good Morning, Vietnam”, “Aladdin”, and “Mrs.Doubtfire”, among other favorites). As the month progresses, the marquee will feature a number of popular sci-fi flicks and thrillers, including the original three Star Wars movies, “Unbreakable” and “The Hunt For Red October”.
They don’t, however, merely show movies that can readily be found in most home and public libraries–their selections are far more diverse. Last month’s screenings included a series of Nazi propaganda films from the mid-30s (including Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will). On the night we attended, we watched a US Navy recruitment film from 1939 (Wings of the Navy) clearly intended to increase interest in naval aviation and enlistment as the US prepared to enter WWII. The movie was, apparently, projected using the original, freshly-restored film. (I wasn’t aware of this, but my husband was geeking out about it and told me.)
The Library of Congress’s Packard Campus works in conjunction with the newly-restored Culpeper State Theater, and tickets for both venues are available at the website: http://www.culpepertheatre.org/ The site also features the most comprehensive and up-to-date schedule of upcoming events (film, live music, and stage performances) available.