Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Wikis


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Country USA
Type Research library
Scope Comic Art
Established 1977
Location Columbus, Ohio
Branch of The Ohio State University Libraries

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, a research library of American comic art, is affiliated with the Ohio State University library system in Columbus, Ohio. Formerly known as the Cartoon Research Library and the Cartoon Library & Museum, it is now the largest and most comprehensive academic research facility documenting and displaying printed cartoon art.[1][2]

Covering comic books, comic strips, editorial cartoons, graphic novels, magazine cartoons and sports cartoons, the collection includes 450,000 original cartoons, 36,000 books, 51,000 serial titles, 3,000 feet (910 m) of manuscript materials, and 2.5 million comic strip clippings and tear sheets.


Curator and collections

The Museum's curator is Lucy Shelton Caswell, author of several books on cartooning, including Illusions: Ethnicity in American Cartoon Art (Ohio State Libraries, 1992) and Arnold Roth: Free Lance (Fantagraphics, 2001). The Cartoon Library began in 1977 when the Milton Caniff Collection was donated to Ohio State and delivered to the School of Journalism, which was headed by Caswell. The Caniff Collection consists of 12,000 original artworks by Caniff, 85 boxes of memorabilia and more than 450 boxes of manuscript materials, fan letters and business records.

From two classrooms off the back hallway of the Journalism Building in 1977, the collection expanded to three classrooms and became part of the University Libraries. By 1989, the three classrooms were filled, and the Library moved into a larger space, eventually requiring the use of off-site storage as the collection continued to expand. Interviewed by Matt Tauber, Caswell detailed the Museum's origins and how she became involved:

Lucy Shelton Caswell has been the curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum since it began in 1977.
Caniff loved his university very much and truly believed that without the education he got here he would not have achieved the things that he did. So his sense of gratitude to the university was palpable... Somebody had to be responsible to make sure it was all there, and all the boxes had my name on it. When funding was made available to work on Caniff, I was offered a six-month appointment. I’ve been here ever since. The original collection was housed in the Journalism building. When I started working with it, we were in two classrooms that had been converted, a door cut between them, so that one was a reading room and one was a storage area... At the time that I started, there weren’t really the kinds of resources to teach and learn about comics that we have now. So I basically had to make it up as we went along. There just wasn’t anything else out there. As a good librarian and scholar I started writing around to other places that said they had cartoon collections to see how they did things, because you don’t want to reinvent the wheel if somebody’s already figured it out. It turned out that nobody had the kind of thing that we had in the Caniff collection, i.e. so extensive, and the combination of art and manuscript materials. And nobody else was trying to grow it the way we were.[3]

As the Museum's collection of original art and manuscripts evolved and expanded, it added the Nick Anderson Collection, the Jim Borgman Collection, the Eldon Dedini Collection, the Edwina Dumm Collection, the Will Eisner Collection, the Woody Gelman Collection of Winsor McCay cartoons, the Walt Kelly Collection, the Toni Mendez Collection and the Bill Watterson Deposit Collection. The Jay Kennedy Collection has more than 9,500 underground comic books. The Bud Blake Collection includes more than 5,800 of the cartoon panels he drew for King Features Syndicate from 1954 to 1965, plus 10,000 daily and Sunday Tiger originals. In 1992, United Media donated the Robert Roy Metz Collection of 83,034 original cartoons by 113 cartoonists. In 2007 King Features donated its proof sheet collection, consisting of over two million strips (a duplicate set was donated to Michigan State University's Comic Art Collection).[4]

Comic strips and mergers

The Cartoon Library & Museum acquired the International Museum of Cartoon Art collection in 2008.

In 1998, the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, was acquired from its director, Bill Blackbeard, giving the library the largest collection of newspaper comic strip tear sheets and clippings in the world.[1][2]

In June 2008, the collection of the International Museum of Cartoon Art (more than 200,000 originals with an estimated value of $20 million) was transferred to the Cartoon Library & Museum. Founded in 1973 by cartoonist Mort Walker, the IMCA collection includes a wide variety of original cartoon art (comic strips, comic books, animation, editorial, advertising, sport, caricature, greeting cards, graphic novels, and illustrations), display figures, toys and collectibles, plus works on film and tape, CDs and DVDs.[1][5][6] The 2009 exhibition From Yellow Kid to Conan: American Cartoons from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection was held from June to August.

Archives and exhibitions

Archival professional records include the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, National Cartoonists Society, Newspaper Features Council and the Cartoonists Guild. A biographical registry of cartoonists contains files for more than 5,000 cartoonists and clipping files organized by cartoon-related subjects.[1]

The library sponsors programs related to cartoon art by staging exhibitions, lending for exhibits elsewhere, and hosting speakers, seminars, workshops and conferences. Some physical exhibitions have been made available as digital exhibitions. The Festival of Cartoon Art has been held triennially since 1983.[1][2]


Expansion plans include the renovation of historic Sullivant Hall located on High Street adjacent to the Wexner Center for the Arts. This proposed facility will expand from its current 6,808 square feet to more than 40,000 square feet. When completed, it will feature a reading room for researchers, three museum-quality galleries and expanded storage space with state-of-the-art environmental and security controls.

In May 2009, Jean Schulz, widow of Charles M. Schulz, made a donation of $1 million with a promise of a matching grant if more funds were raised. Her challenge was that she would provide an additional gift of $2.5 million if Ohio State raises the same amount from other sources to reach a $6 million total. Cartoonist Bil Keane and his family have answered the Schulz Challenge with a $50,000 gift.

In September 2009, it was announced that the Ohio State University Board of Trustees approved a new name, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, in recognition of a $7 million gift from the Elizabeth Ireland Graves Foundation to support the renovation of Sullivant Hall. The $20.6 million project will be completed in 2013, at which time Sullivant Hall will house both the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum and Ohio State's Department of Dance. A native of Chillicothe, Ohio, Billy Ireland (1880-1935) was a self-taught cartoonist who was hired by The Columbus Dispatch shortly after his 1898 high school graduation. Until his death on May 29, 1935, Ireland worked in Columbus, Ohio for the Dispatch, drawing both editorial cartoons and his Sunday feature, The Passing Show. His work was exhibited by the Museum in 2003. The Elizabeth Ireland Graves Foundation is managed by the cartoonist's granddaughter, Sayre Graves, of Bremo Bluff, Virginia.

See also

This panel from Percy Crosby's Skippy (May 11, 1936) is a "reference image," one of many such "finding aids" in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum's San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection. Each strip gets a single panel as a visual reference.


External links



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