Roda Ferraro

Keeneland Library's traveling exhibit, The Heart of the Turf: Racing's Black Pioneers, highlights the lives and careers of 80 African American horsemen and women from the mid-1800s to today. Lexington’s East End, home to the Kentucky Association track from the late 1820s through 1933, also was home to many Black horsemen and their families. By the late 1800s, four future Racing Hall of Famers lived in Lexington’s East End: jockeys Isaac Burns Murphy and Jimmy Winkfield, trainer Ansel Williamson, and trainer/owner Edward Dudley Brown. Hundreds of others bought their homes, built their businesses, and raised their families in neighborhoods around the Kentucky Association track and in surrounding counties. The economy of the Bluegrass and viability of the Thoroughbred industry as a whole are rooted in their skill, hard work, knowledge, and tenacity. From race track superstars to behind-the-scenes caretakers, The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers showcases select stories of the countless African Americans who forged their way in Kentucky and beyond from the era of slavery to the present, making the racing industry what it is today.

Roda Ferraro, Director of the Keeneland Library, pursued her undergraduate studies at Emory University and graduate studies at Indiana University before her years in teaching and research oversight at Vanderbilt University and the University of Kentucky. She holds a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Kentucky.

Roda has more than twenty years of experience leading, assessing, and promoting library, museum, research, and educational services, including her work with the Keeneland Library and National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame since 2014.

Through her focus on creating responsive systems of access for researchers and racing fans around the world, Keeneland Library’s research services volume doubled during Roda’s tenure as Head Librarian. Additionally, the library’s outreach programs tripled their reach under her management, while her focus on digitizing collections grew the library’s digital assets by more than 500 percent in six years.

Roda’s industry educational initiatives include launching research fundamentals workshops for university equine students, curating Keeneland Library’s physical and virtual exhibits, expanding the Keeneland Library Lecture Series, and piloting the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s fifth and final season of Foal Patrol to an unprecedented global reach of four million users in 2022.

Roda returned to Keeneland Library in fall 2022 to curate the library’s newest exhibit, The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers, and its associated educational programs and materials. The exhibit’s programs for youth and adults have reached record-breaking audiences for the library, and Roda will continue to work with industry and community partners to provide educational programs and travel the exhibit across the country after it closes at Keeneland Library on December 8, 2023.

Roda’s service work in the community includes her roles on the Board of Directors for the Lexington Public Library Foundation and the Lexington History Museum, refugee and immigrant health and social services task forces, school-based decision making councils, and providing best practices consultation for international libraries and museums.

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