Grab That Leonardo!

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One of the most difficult challenges facing doomsday planners was deciding what cultural treasures should be saved. In 1950 the National Gallery of Art began construction of a $550,000 facility on the grounds of Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Va., as a safe haven for works of art. Funded by a private trust, the windowless structure had storage areas for sculptures and screened partitions to protect paintings. Nearby was a three-bedroom cottage, fully furnished and complete with china, silverware and napkins -- ready for the curator to move in and oversee the collection. Several former gallery executives recall that for years 2 1/2-ton trucks were kept in the gallery's garage and driveways to transport the artworks in the event of a threatened attack. Each week security staff would start the trucks' engines and make sure the gas tanks were full. By the early 1970s the plan had fallen into disfavor. "It lost its appeal when Lynchburg became more of a likely bombing target because of some industrial development," recalls Charles Parkhurst, the National Gallery's former assistant director.

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