When I first put this dvd into my player, I had no idea of how much information and research the Library of Congress was responsible for. I, like most people, assumed that it’s a big building where members of Congress go to conduct research. This may be so, but there is so much more to the Library that it practically boggles the mind, which is the ultimate goal of The Real National Treasure.
The Real National Treasure is actually an episode of History Channel’s series, Modern Marvels. It focuses on every aspect of the Library of Congress, from its layout to the services it provides. There are some fascinating items showcased in the episode, including original texts handwritten by the founding fathers.
The information presented in The Real National Treasure comes at the viewer quickly, and the show’s pace moves along quite nicely, with many of the resident experts sharing their knowledge and giving insight into the many tasks that are done there daily.
One of the more interesting segments of the show was the section on preservation. The Library is responsible for the preservation of not just millions of books, but thousands of classic films, pieces of art, and other documents. The methods that are used and the lengths gone to in the preservation of these treasures are explained and illustrated in a very clear way, with helpful maps and illustrations of the building’s layout interspersed throughout the presentation.
Another surprising thing about the Library is that it is accessible to the public. Though nobody is allowed into the actual storage areas, a conveyor belt system is in place that brings books from the Library’s depths on request and delivers them into the hands of visitors.
The Real National Treasure is a great deal of information presented in a fairly short documentary, and I learned a lot. The problem, however, is that there’s not much bang for your buck here. You basically get a quick tour of a huge complex, along with a rundown of the things employees of that complex do. There is no time to really get in depth with any of the information, so the real effect the show has is, assuming the subject is of interest to you, to whet your appetite for a full-fledged documentary or series about the Library of Congress. With The Real National Treasure, you’ve basically paid for a dvd containing a single episode of a History Channel series.
The Real National Treasure is presented in a 1.33:1 format that required my fiddling with screen settings to make it fit my screen rather than watch a smaller rectangle in the middle of my monitor. Video quality is mostly okay, though grain is evident through most of the presentation along with numerous compression artifacts. I also spotted dirt on the camera lens on a few occasions.
The disc’s audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0, and is pretty average for the most part. The dialogue is fairly clear but occasionally gets a bit hissy, and the music, mainly the background variety, is fairly muted and never gets in the way of the other audio.
The Library of Congress Experience (5:47): This is basically a long ad for the Library of Congress, right down to repetition of catch phrases. There are some nice images and cool information, but its main function seems to be getting people to want to learn more about the Library.
Though much information is packed onto this relatively short disc, it is too little to warrant a full purchase, especially without even bothering to include any decent bonus features. It’s definitely worth a rental or, better yet, watch for it to be repeated on the History Channel. If this were packaged as part of a set with, say, profiles of other great American institutions, it would have greater value and be worth purchasing.