Deep inside a once-active limestone mine in Rosendale, New York, lies the master recordings from Sony Music Entertainment, the video archive of World Wrestling Entertainment, and 50,000 tapes of a certain Major League Baseball team from New York.
We can’t be sure which one, because Iron Mountain, Inc. — a $5 billion storage and information management company that operates a facility inside the former mine — does not readily release the names of its clients.
In the interest of protecting their clients and their valuable archives, visitors are rarely allowed on the premises, though a 2013 feature in The New Yorker unmasked the usually secretive information-storage giant and revealed some names on its client list.
Photographer Nicholas Mehedin was also lucky enough to get access inside the underground Rosendale location, which is one of about 1,000 that Iron Mountain owns.
“I had to go through a lot of red tape and explain my interest and intentions to several people,” Mehedin told Business Insider of the process.
We spoke with Mehedin, as well as the Rosendale location’s district manager, Randy Crego, to get an idea of what it’s like inside the old mine that houses both the mundane and the more unexpected archives from various Fortune 1000 companies.
Today, a majority of the items stored are in the form of paper documents or tapes. In the '70s and '80s, however, the space hosted more interesting valuables, including musical instruments, antiques, and celebrity memorabilia. An art collector even stored many of her paintings here. At the same time, executives from some major companies -- Exxon and Shell, for example -- built sometimes elaborate fallout shelters in the mine, where they would stay in the event a nuclear war broke out.
Currently, more than 94% of Fortune 1000 companies rely on Iron Mountain's more than 1,000 facilities to store and manage their information. But unlike data stored in the cloud, that information can come in any form -- from paper printouts of meeting minutes, presentation slides, and invoices, to audio and video tapes.
While many of Iron Mountain's storage facilities are above ground inside 'warehouses, hangars, and nondescript office buildings,' according to The New Yorker, they do have a handful of units in previously active iron or limestone mines.
'It was a really surreal environment,' said Mehedin. 'The air was really thick and warm, but everything was cold to the touch and slightly damp.' According to Crego, only 10 people currently work in Iron Mountain's Rosendale location -- three service staff, five security staff, and two couriers.
While these conditions might not sound great for storing files, Crego explained that the underground limestone creates an ideal temperature of 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
'Rosendale was an ideal location -- it provided (a) sufficient (and) diverse space to construct vaults and entire buildings for the preservation of records in highly secure compartments,' Crego said. '(The) natural advantages (of limestone) are augmented by de-humidification processes that provide the proper environment for all types of records.'
Mehedin was only granted two hours to go inside and photograph, which is an incredibly short period of time for exploring such an intricate facility. On top of that, he was shooting with a view camera -- a process that is naturally slow and methodical.
'I had restrictions on what I was allowed to photograph,' Mehedin said. 'They basically didn't want me photographing the facility in a manner that someone could make a blueprint.'
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