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From Issue #4 November 22, 2012

The Sound of Silence

America’s archive of audio recordings remains quietly out of range of hearing.

By Glenn Fleishman Twitter icon 

The Library of Congress occupies three massive and ornate buildings in the center of Washington, D.C. But those edifices house just part of the collection, which spans hundreds of miles of shelves across many less-interesting buildings, and extends to media beyond books.

To find the heart of the nation’s audiovisual memory, I took a lovely drive along ever smaller highways heading southwest from Washington, D.C., to Culpeper, Virginia, where sound recordings, films, and video reside in temperature-controlled vaults beneath Mount Pony.

Passing historical sites like Bull Run1 and Manassas, and watching the landscape shift rapidly from government buildings and commercial high rises to strip malls to farms and antique stores, it...

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