Library of Congress


Earlier this year I was impressed when we visited the National Film & Sound Archive in Canberra but nothing could have prepared me for the scale of the ‘state of the art’ facilities at the National Audi Visual Conservation Centre at the Library of Congress in Culpeper Virginia.

Housed in a converted cold war currency bunker, this facility is home to literally millions of film assets all stored in various states of temperature and humidity control. I got to see first hand the The Great Train Robbery (1903) and the negatives for the 1931 Frankenstein

But of particular interest (and a decent walk deep into the cool rooms) was the TODD-AO 30fps film assets for Michael Todd’s Around the World in 80 Days which was donated to the Library by Elizabeth Taylor after her husbands death in a plane crash in 1958. This original version of the film hasn’t been restored and is not what you get to see on disc or on Netflix. Of even greater interest was the fact that the team pulled for me the editors 70mm work print. A very rare piece of wide screen film history.

But we weren’t here just to look over artefacts. L.O.C is home to a rather unique film workshop and festival called ‘Mostly Lost’. Archivists, librarians, film collectors and anyone who wants to attend, gather to watch unidentified or under identified film fragments in the hope of placing them in history.

It’s a unique screening experience where people yell out anything they recognise as the film plays, bouncing off each other’s comments while others take notes at the back of the auditorium. With live piano accompaniment everyone has a laptop open and everyone has fun. A great idea now in its eight year with many missing titles being removed from the ‘lost film’ list.

We were made to feel so welcome by everyone and got some great interviews and footage.

Bert Murphy