UCR’s science fiction and fantasy collection receives $3.5 million donation

Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER
Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER

The Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at UC Riverside received a $3.5 million donation by the estate of the late photographer Jay Kay Klein, who passed away in 2012. Holding close ties to Dr. Melissa Conway, the head of Special Collections and University Archives, Klein had already donated his $1.4 million photo collection to the university.

University officials reported that the funds will create an endowment that is expected to produce $150,000; the collection currently runs on a budget of about $160,000. Klein’s donation will also go toward staffing a full-time librarian dedicated to looking after the entire Eaton collection. In addition, the UCR libraries will seek to digitize Klein’s photos and identify any unknown subjects in his photographs.

Klein’s photos were taken at a variety of science fiction events, such as the World Science Fiction Convention. Klein also took photos of many science fiction authors and personalities such as Ray Bradbury, Carl Sagan and Gene Roddenberry at these conventions. His photo collection included over 66,000 photographs over a span of 25 years.

Conway recalled her memories of the late Klein as “a brilliant guy,” with “a completely fantastic, eidetic memory,” and as a person having “an encyclopedia of knowledge.”

Despite never visiting the collection himself during his lifetime due to ill health, Klein chose to send his collection to UCR. While UCR’s Eaton Collection is the largest and one of the most prestigious science fiction collections in the world, Conway stated that Klein “really had to check out what we would do, what promises we would make so he wasn’t just drawn by the prestige. He really needed to know that he could trust UCR.”

Conway added that, “It’s quite a nice statement about UCR and its reputation. He was a proud graduate of Syracuse University, as was his late wife. The fact that they would choose us as their heir is pretty impressive for UCR.”

Klein’s donations also excited Rob Latham, an English professor and founder of the science fiction and technoculture studies program at UCR, who said, “It’s an amazing coup for us — and a tribute to the effort of Melissa Conway, Director of Special Collections in Rivera Library, who identified and then cultivated the donor over several years. Her hard work and dedication to her job have succeeded in garnering for the Eaton Collection the largest single bequest in the library’s history. She deserves all the credit for this.”

Latham also notes that, if the UCR library administration uses the funds wisely, it will insure the solvency of the collection for some time and provide enhanced research support.

Science fiction fans were gratified by the announcement of the endowment. “The Science Fiction Library is a significant collection of literature,” Jacob Devereux, a fourth-year creative writing major and science fiction enthusiast stated. “The new endowment is very exciting because it proves that people still understand and appreciate the relevance of this art.”

This large donation also helps display Klein’s legacy and love for the craft of science fiction. Arturo Perez, a fourth-year English major added that, “(Klein’s) endowment represents his love for the genre (and) it being in his will meant he planned this before his death. Not many people would donate that type of money to a public collection — if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.”

 

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