In the realm of academia, where the past meets the present to shape the future, Elizabeth Roderick (M.P.A ‘18) and John Kneebone, Ph.D. stand as advocates for preserving history. Their fervent support for VCU Giving Day 2024 echoes their deep-seated belief in the significance of the VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives Endowment. The couple met when they both worked at the Library of Virginia, where she served as the Director of the Virginia Library and Information Network (VLIN) and the Digital Library Program, and he was the Director of the Publications and Educational Services Division and the Virginia Colonial Record Project.

Kneebone began teaching in VCU’s history department in 2003 and his experiences at VCU underscore the richness of the university’s collections and archives. He highlights how these resources have been instrumental in his research endeavors and academic projects, including his collaboration with VCU President Emeritus Eugene P. Trani on “Fulfilling the Promise: Virginia Commonwealth University and the City of Richmond, 1968-2009.” The book tells the story of VCU from its founding in 1968 through the end of Trani’s tenure as president in 2009, and the university’s role in Richmond.

Kneebone vividly recalls using the help of VCU’s Special Collections and Archives during the process: “I used the collections extensively, including discovering oral history interviews with early faculty members talking about their experiences at VCU, as well as MCV employees. These were done in a Betamax format. Special Collections and Archives were able to find Betamax players so I could actually see and hear the videos.”

The use of Betamax tapes for archival footage is significant because Betamax was a video cassette format that predated VHS but eventually lost the format war in the consumer market. As a result, finding functional Betamax players and maintaining the tapes in playable condition becomes increasingly challenging over time.

As a retired librarian, Roderick brings a wealth of experience to her advocacy for preserving history. She understands first-hand the importance of maintaining and providing access to archival and original source materials. Her 20+ years of service in the field have given her a deep appreciation for the role that libraries play in education and research. 

Roderick’s passion for ensuring the preservation of historical records is not only rooted in her professional background but also in her personal experiences as a graduate student at VCU. She earned a post baccalaureate Graduate Certificate in Non-profit Management, a Master of Public Administration in 2018 and a post baccalaureate Graduate Certificate in Urban Revitalization in 2021 from the Wilder School at VCU. She recognizes the pivotal role that library resources played in enriching her educational journey and is dedicated to ensuring that future generations of students and researchers have access to these invaluable resources.

Reflecting on her time as a graduate student and the profound impact of VCU’s library resources on her educational experience, Roderick shared, “I used the library very heavily…the variety and richness of what was made available to students was really incredible.” Her enthusiasm for these resources extends beyond her personal experiences, as she advocates for continued support to widen access and ensure the preservation of these invaluable materials for future generations of students and researchers. 

Looking toward the future, Kneebone expressed concerns about the evolving landscape of archives, particularly in the digital age. He emphasized the challenges posed by digital records and the complexities of preservation and accessibility. Roderick echoed these sentiments, noting the costliness of digitization and storage.

Despite these challenges, their optimism shines through as they point out the potential for continued growth and innovation within Special Collections and Archives. Their shared belief in the transformative power of archival resources, especially in providing unique insights into society, education, and politics, serves as a compelling call to action for donors to consider contributing to widening the availability of these rich materials. This was a driving factor in their decision to make a challenge grant for VCU Giving Day 2024 for the Endowment for Special Collections and Archives. By investing in the Endowment for Special Collections and Archives, donors can play a crucial role in ensuring the long-term sustainability and accessibility of VCU’s archival treasures for generations to come.

To make a gift in support of the Endowment for Special Collections and Archives and help meet the Challenge, click here.

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