He drove a 1970’s Chevrolet Chevelle Concours station wagon, complete with faux-wood paneling and a rooftop luggage rack. Every summer, he’d drive our family up to our cabin in Northern Michigan to get us, as he’d say, “out of the house and into the woods.”
It was an endless adventure of learning with my father. He especially loved teaching us about animal habitats, ecosystems, and species of trees.
His National Geographic magazine collection up on bookshelves in our living room was always a treasure trove of information. He always enjoyed spending evenings reading in his favorite chair. I’d sneak into the room after he left for work, just to get my hands on the magical picture books filled with pages of exotic animals and far away places.
Those magazines spanned a lifetime of important information that opened up my father’s world—and eventually mine. He took from his books and magazines an expansive knowledge of nature and geography, and transferred that knowledge and love of the outdoors back to me.
Then, there was my mom.
For as long as I can remember, my mom always enjoyed giving back. She always was the first to notice needs in the community. It was during the holiday’s where I saw this gift demonstrated most. She always said, “to whom much is given, much is required.”
This is why she packed us kids into that same wood-paneled Chevrolet station wagon and drove us downtown to volunteer at the Salvation Army. It’s a Holiday tradition I practice to this day.
We’d spend the morning together sorting clothes and packing boxes full of canned food and toys, to make sure other little girls like me would have something special for Christmas. My mom told me that she was once one of those girls growing up in the projects of Detroit. This childhood experience motivates her today to pay it forward.
On weekends, she used to drive us to the local hospital in Rochester, where we volunteered as candy stripers. Adorned in pink and white hospital uniforms, we passed out flowers and books to eager patients looking for a good read and a kind word to pass the day. Sometimes these books were the only thing that helped sick patients escape the pain, loneliness, and longing for better days ahead.
It was during those times that I became aware of the welfare of others and what our shared humanity could look like. About not only being open to the differences we all share, but to love and value those differences.
From my father’s passion for nature and knowledge and my mother’s generous heart, I learned that the pursuit of knowledge and generosity are inseparable.
And it’s at this intersection of knowledge and philanthropy that I have found myself.
As the Director of Philanthropy at the Internet Archive, I lead a team that educates millions of people all over the world about, well, everything. Including why it’s so important to preserve humanity’s knowledge—to preserve our collective footprint of culture and history.
And now, thanks to the Internet Archive, every day more than 1.6 million people access our nonprofit digital library. Accessed by genealogists, gamers, scientists, teachers, students, journalists and poets. The Internet Archive stores curated collections of more than 6 million books, 240,000 concerts, 5 million videos, 32 million magazines and other texts, 25 million scholarly research materials, 625 billion web pages—about everything in the world. Literally. For free. You can even access my favorite collection from the Biodiversity Heritage Library.
This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Internet Archive. A celebration of 25 years of fulfilling the mission of providing Universal Access to All Knowledge.
Personally, I am celebrating my 25th year in philanthropy.
After 25 years of leading philanthropy departments at some of the largest nonprofit organizations in the world with missions providing access to education, clean water, medicine, gender equity, and innovation, I now find myself serving over 100,000 contributors from all over the world. I’m grateful to be part of a vision that’s creating an online repository of knowledge—for keeping a record of history that can’t be erased, and is accessible to millions worldwide.
Knowledge, as we know, is the foundation of everything.
Now, I invite you to take your own journey by exploring an endless reservoir of information—explore the Internet Archive for yourself.
You never know where that journey will take you.
Please visit us at archive.org/donate and consider making an end-of-year donation by December 31st. We have a generous 2:1 match that triples your impact. Please share your own personal journey with us on social media (twitter, FB, Insta links). Most importantly, we are deeply grateful for your continued generosity and support.
Wishing you a happy and healthy Holiday season!
Joy Chesbrough is the Director of Philanthropy at the Internet Archive. When she’s not reading books and magazines about biodiversity or endangered species, you can find her serving on the Board of Directors at the What If Foundation, which educates and serves school children of all ages in Haiti. She also enjoys sailing, traveling, and volunteering in her community with her French bulldog, Napoleon.