Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Founding Curator Lucy Shelton Caswell, and Milton Caniff

Blog Launch, and the Construction of Our New Home in Sullivant Hall
Posted on February 28, 2012 by Caitlin McGurk

Welcome to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Blog! We’re very excited to join the comics blogosphere, and keep you all informed on what we’re up to. This blog will generally be updated at least twice a week with a smattering of events and activities of the Cartoon Library, highlights from our collection, interviews, and more. We hope you will add us to your feed, and continue to check back for the latest news. Please click the “About Us” tab find out more details about who we are.

For our debut post, I’d like to give a quick background on the history of the collection, culminating in some very exciting news about the move to our new home in 2013.

The Milton Caniff Reading Room opened in 1977 in two renovated classrooms in the Journalism Building of Ohio State University. Caniff [Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon] had donated in multiple installments his entire collection to OSU: 696 cubic feet of original art, correspondence, research files, photographs, memorabilia, merchandise, realia, awards, audio/visual material and scrapbooks.

Although there was no structure for collecting such materials from cartoonists, and few (if any) institutions in America were, Caniff was a proud OSU graduate and felt compelled to leave his legacy material with his beloved Alma mater. Lucy Caswell had worked in the journalism library and was hired to catalog the Caniff collection. Caswell recognized how precious these materials were and saw that they were under-appreciated in academic institutions and museums at large. She set out to establish an appropriate home for the collecting and preservation of cartoon art, and nearly 40 years later this altruistic goal has grown into the largest collection of cartoons and comics in the world.

The Cartoon Library in its original 1977 home in the Journalism Building. Note the ancient computer, and telephone cable wired from the ceiling!

Having grown exponentially by the early 1990s, by then containing 200,000 original cartoons and more than 1,000 linear feet of manuscript materials, the library moved into a new temperature and humidity controlled state-of-the-art facility to better house and preserve materials.

Cartoon Library Reading Room. This space doubles as our exhibition gallery. (click to enlarge)

This 6,800 square-foot space has remained our home through today. As the storage area filled up, the Library was given the opportunity to store some of its materials at a new off-site, high-density remote depository that is shared by all the Ohio State University Libraries.

A small portion of our art cases for originals, with single-issue comics storage in the background (click to enlarge)
Offsite Storage (click to enlarge)
Offsite Storage (click to enlarge)

Although it may seem hard to imagine , by 2012 we have almost completely run out of space. Our current holdings have reached over 450,000 originals, nearly 40,000 books, 51,000 serial titles, 3,000 linear feet of manuscript material, and 2.5 million comic strip clippings and tearsheets– making us the largest comprehensive research collection documenting cartoon art in the world.

This is why we are in the process of building a new facility to house the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. In 2013, we will be moving into a beautiful new home in Sullivant Hall, at the gateway to campus. This new facility will include three exhibition galleries, a large new reading room, a seminar room for educational programming, and much larger office and collection storage facilities. Our square footage will be increased from 6,800 to almost 30,000- a dream come true for a long and lovingly harvested collection that has striven to give the deserved recognition to the underdog medium that is cartoon art. We are so incredibly thrilled and excited to settle into our new home, and endlessly thankful to those who have made the funding possible. Below, you can enjoy some artist renderings of our soon-to-be home, done by architect George Acock:

North entrance rendering
Gallery Rendering (one of 3 exhibit spaces!)

Please continue to check back here for updates and photos as the construction moves along. We hope you’ll come celebrate with us in 2013!

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