Bill Gates' bunkered photos

You've probably seen the famous photographs in  Bill Gates' personal collection at Corbis.com online, a company that Gates owns. But where are the actual photos stored? They're located hundreds of feet below ground in an old limestone mine in rural Pennsylvania in a room specially designed to extend the lifespan on the photos, says Charles Doughty, vice president of The Underground, Iron Mountain's underground facility in Butler County.

"Those photos would have had a life measured in decades in an uncontrolled environment topside," Doughty says. Images in the Otto Bettman Archive were already deteriorating when Gates acquired the collection. So Corbis hired imaging expert Henry Wilhelm to design a facility that would preserve the images and extend their lifespan as long as possible.

Working with Doughty, Wilhelm designed in environment in which the images would be maintained at -4 degrees Fahrenheit with 35% humidity. "That will extend the life of the records to over 20,000 years," says Doughty. "He took a collection that was falling apart and within decades would have been nonexistent and preserved those records."

Wilhelm chose The Underground because of its security - and the staff's understanding of thermodynamics, says Doughty, an engineer by training. That, he says, is also the key to competent data center design.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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