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CEI integrates systems at Library of Congress archive facility

Systems integrator Communications Engineering, Inc. (CEI), located in Newington, VA, has designed and installed a myriad of equipment and systems for digitizing the massive audio and video archives at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center (NAVCC) at the Library of Congress Packard Campus in Culpeper, Va.

The NAVCC oversees the world’s largest collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings. The center contains underground storage for 5.7 million items, on 90 miles of shelving. It includes 415,000sq-ft, 35 climate-controlled vaults for sound recording, safety film and videotape, and 124 individual vaults for more flammable nitrate film. The campus is tasked with reformatting all audiovisual media formats and storing them in a petabyte-sized digital storage archive.

Many of the areas constructed by CEI are now operational, including seven audio conversion rooms and three video conversion rooms, featuring a variety of playback equipment that will be maintained, repaired and calibrated by CEI technicians.

Much of the NAVCC facility was previously used by the Federal Reserve Bank. Its underground, climate-controlled vaults make it well suited for holding the fragile films and recordings, but its original design, with inadequate conduits, power and HVAC, also presented challenges for converting it to use by the Library.

Special consideration had to be given to the specialized equipment in the construction of the playback rooms, such as creating extremely stable environments for audio turntables. Compressed air had to be supplied for the numerous quad videotape machines throughout the building. The reference levels for the variety of playback and recording equipment had to be precisely checked and maintained.

The NAVCC will also host a regular series of film and television programming in its 206-seat theater. The state-of-the-art projection booth, built by CEI, will show everything from nitrate film to modern digital cinema. The theater features two 16/35 mm projectors and two 35/70 mm projectors, allowing films to be shown side by side for comparison. Two additional screening rooms feature two 16/35 mm projectors.

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