Everyone in Winnipeg and possibly in Edmonton has likely heard about the collection of mostly science fiction and fantasy books, fan magazines and correspondence donated by Winnipeger Chester D. Cuthbert to the University of Alberta. Winnipeg media reported on the story last week as the collection, valued at about a million dollars and numbering some 60,000 works, was loaded up for the trip to Alberta. I didn’t take in all of the coverage there was to see, read, and hear, but, what I did left me with the question, “why didn’t the collection end up in Winnipeg?”. The answer is found in a post on the blog, “the pod bay door” by Randy Reichardt, a former Winnipeger and now engineering librarian at the University of Alberta.
(Photo “Boxes From the Cuthbert Collection Awaiting Their Move to Edmonton” from Pod Bay Door photostream on Flickr, © 2007 Randy Reichardt.)
The post, entitled, “The Chester D. Cuthbert Collection: Reeling in the Years”, explains that Cuthbert, who will turn 95 on October 15, was dismayed that the University of Winnipeg had earlier had to sell well below value a sci-fi book collection bequeathed to the U of W by the late Bob Stimpson in 1996. Stimpson, who died at 47, was along with Reichardt, a long-time friend of Mr. Cuthbert dating back to the 70′s. Both were frequent visitors to Cuthbert’s home where their sci-fi fan group met for meetings. Of the Stimpson collection, Reichardt writes :
“In fairness to the UW Library, it was unprepared for such a large donation, and could not afford to keep it. Nonetheless, an amazing resource was lost to students and researchers forever.”
Reichardt, who alerted his university library to Cuthbert’s collection many years ago when the library began its own sci-fi collection, assisted the University of Alberta’s Dr. Merrill Distad coordinate the shipping of the Cuthbert collection from Winnipeg last week. His blog post here gives an interesting peak at the history of sci-fi fandom in Winnipeg and includes links to media coverage and photos of the collection’s move to Edmonton. Once the collection is appraised, processed and catalogued, a process that according to Reichardt could take three years, the items will be made available to students and researchers. Hopefully, Manitoba sci-fi fans like myself will have access to this amazing collection as well.