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Nation’s AV heritage has a home

CULPEPER, Va. -- More than 6 million film and recording artifacts -- including footage of Elvis Presley’s gyrations and Charlie Chaplin’s bowlegged gait -- have a new home in this town southwest of Washington, D.C.

The National Audio-Visual Conservation Center was officially turned over to the Library of Congress on Thursday. The three-building complex brings together all the library’s scattered recordings and conservation staff.

“It assures for the first time the permanent storage and preservation and heightened access to the audiovisual heritage of the last 110 years,” said James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress.

The 415,000-square-foot center brings together materials that were once divided among facilities on Capitol Hill and in three states.

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A $155-million gift from David Woodley Packard, son of the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, and the Packard Humanities Institute helped create the center. Congress appropriated $82 million for the project.

The trove of 6.3 million items includes the original negatives from “Casablanca,” a complete set of Ed Sullivan’s variety shows and footage of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech after the Pearl Harbor attack.

The oldest moving image in the collection is a five-second kinetoscope movie of a sneeze, made by Thomas Edison in 1894.


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