by Chuck Colbert
Last fall, Texas A&M University acquired a collection of more than 6,000 books, magazines and journals on the study of LGBT communities in the U.S. The collection also includes some of the earliest gay newspapers.
The acquisition, titled The Don Kelly Research Collection of Gay Literature and Culture, is housed in the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives.
Materials from the Kelly collection will be on display in an exhibit opening on April 1 as part of GLBT Awareness Week. The date holds historical significance, marking the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed a gay student group to be recognized on campus at Texas A&M.
An openly gay man all of his life, Kelly, 74, is a retired civil servant of 36 years who resides in Houston.
"I am grateful to the Texas A&M administration, deans and departments for their unwavering support to house the collection," Kelly said in a library website posting. "I particularly would like to single out the staff at Cushing Library for their many kindnesses and courtesies in bringing the acquisition to fruition. It is my fervent hope the collection will spotlight this diversity and give due recognition to this great center of learning; as well as further enlightening minds and opening hearts in the wider community as to the talents and gifts of gay people. If this be so, I take pride in this legacy."
Library officials welcomed the acquisition of the new materials. "The process of acquiring this collection was among the most satisfying since I have come to Texas A&M," said David H. Carlson, dean of University Libraries, in a library website posting. "With just this single collection, the University Libraries becomes one of the premier collections in the country for scholarly resources in LGBT literature."
A recent Houston-based OutSmart magazine article discussed Kelly and his interest in LGBT life and culture. Kelly told assistant editor Megan Smith that he “was initially inspired to start his collection after discovering author Anthony Slide’s book ‘The Lost Gay Novels,’ which discussed 50 novels from the early 20th century that told stories with gay themes and characters. ‘I thought by collecting the listed titles, I would have a fun and interesting project, which would allow me to reflect on the gay condition, and maybe tell me something about myself,’ Kelly says. Over the next year, he collected first editions of 48 of the 50 books listed.
"One thing led to another, and soon Kelly was collecting everything from campy pulp fiction to AIDS literature to some of the first gay periodicals. In reference to the former Kelly laughs and adds, ‘They"re so sleazy.’ What started out as a strictly gay male collection has since expanded to include lesbian, bisexual and transgender literature as well. When asked how he finds and purchases each new acquisition for his collection, Kelly laughs again and says, ‘I had to learn to use eBay. I’m a technological dinosaur.’”
Kelly told OutSmart he intends to keep on collecting: "Since Texas A&M purchased his collection, Kelly has acquired over 2,000 additional published materials — all of which he has donated to the university at no extra cost. ‘I do it for all the gay people I’ve known in my life,’ Kelly says. ‘For all the prejudice that I’ve felt and I know they’ve felt. For all the people who died of AIDS and for all the people who are still dying from addiction. It’s also not just for the gay community, but for the larger community as well, so they understand more about the gay community. As long as I’m alive and as long as I’m able, I’ll continue to do it.'"
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