James Branch Cabell Library, 2016

‘Medicine for the Soul’

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James Branch Cabell Library, 2016

It is no exaggeration to say that the first steps of human progress came in a library.

Libraries were the center of the city in ancient times, filled with manuscripts and scrolls and big ideas, the meeting place for the educated of the city who would come together to talk about art, culture, engineering, medicine and other disciplines that began human civilization as we know it. The things that define us as humans begins began as conversation in ancient libraries.

Yesterday, we cut the ribbon on our new Cabell Library — at the center of our mission as a 21st-century research university — and I was reminded of one of history’s greatest libraries. It was in a city called Thebes on the banks of the Nile River in pharaonic Egypt, one of the leading cities of its day. Thebes was an important hub of Egyptian culture and the final resting place of many cultural and intellectual leaders of the time, including several Pharaohs.

In the center of Thebes sat its magnificent library, built around 1250 B.C.E. by Ramses II. Little is remembered about this library, except for what Ramses inscribed above the doorway where citizens entered: “Medicine for the Soul.”

Ramses believed that the library was a place to discover knowledge and to discover oneself. Nothing has changed in the millennia since then. Libraries are still the center of the academic and moral universe, and the center of our mission as a leading 21st-century research university.

VCU grew into a premier research university thanks to the talent and tenacity of our people. But over the years, our library did not grow with us. That changed today, when we cut the ribbon on a magnificent facility that sits at the center of our mission to continue the advance of human progress through knowledge, research, compassionate care and service. In opening our new library, we usher in a new era for VCU and all who learn and discover here.

We created our own medicine for the soul.