Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Billy Ireland Library’s Collection of Cartoons

From The Columbus Dispatch.

For those who haven’t set foot in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, now is not the time.

But during the COVID-19 closure of the Ohio State University facility, thousands of the cartoons, comics, drawings and other materials in its collection ― the largest of its kind in the world ― can be seen online.
“Our collection as a whole has over 3 million pieces,” said Caitlin McGurk, associate curator and OSU assistant professor. “Almost everything that we have other than materials in our backlog has some kind of visual representation or a digitized version.”

Viewers who visit the “Edwina Dumm” digital exhibit will find the comic strips and political cartoons of the first woman in the United States to be hired as a political cartoonist at a newspaper ― in 1915 at none other than the Columbus Daily Monitor.

“She was making political cartoons at a newspaper before she was even given the right to vote,” McGurk said.

Or viewers can check out works by the African American political cartoonist Sam Milai of the Pittsburgh Courier.

“A Tale of the Jungle Imps” delivers the colored drawings from Winsor McCay’s first comic strip, a collection that was anonymously donated to the library in 2006 when the owner found them in a stack of old boxes. (McCay is most famous for his “Little Nemo in Slumberland” comic.)

“Ohio Cartoonists” gives examples of works by artists from the state that has spawned more cartoonists than any other in the country.

Cartoon by Billy Ireland

The digital exhibits go on and on: works by artist Nell Brinkleycaricaturist Thomas NastMilton Caniff (“Terry and the Pirates,” “Steve Canyon”), Richard Felton Outcault (“Yellow Kid)” and many more.

“Our digital exhibits are robust,” McGurk said. “They’re bite-sized, so you can dig into one and not be too overwhelmed.”

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, housed in Sullivant Hall on the OSU campus, is the world’s largest collection of cartoon and comic art material and one of only three cartoon art museums in the United States. 

The much smaller Cartoon Art Museum is located in San Francisco and the Charles M. Schulz Museum is in Santa Rosa, California.

“When we started doing this way back in 1977, we were one of the only institutions collecting and archiving this material, so we had a huge head start,” McGurk said.

And its holdings continue to grow.

“Our two biggest recent acquisition were the Dan DeCarlo collection (Archie comics) and the Marmaduke collection — a semi-truck full of material by Brad Anderson.”

During the COVID-19 era, when museums and galleries are closed to the public, McGurk said the museum is dedicated to sharing its digital resources, online and through social media. 

Late in March, for example, McGurk posted a Spotify playlist of comic-themed or comic inspired music, such as “Spiderman” by the Ramones and “Batdance” by Prince.

The current physical exhibits ― “Making Faces: Portraits by John Kascht” and “Ladies First: A Century of Women’s Innovations in Comics and Cartoon Art” ― are not open, of course, but they have been extended into May. 

Nancy Gilson

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