Country USA
Type Research library
Scope Comic art
Established 1977
Location Columbus
Branch of Ohio State University Libraries
Other information
Director Jenny E. Robb, Curator
Lucy Caswell, Founder
Wendy Pflug, Associate Curator
Caitlin McGurk, Visiting Curator

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is a research library of American cartoons and comic art affiliated with the Ohio State University library system in Columbus, Ohio. Formerly known as the Cartoon Research Library and the Cartoon Library & Museum, it holds the world's largest and most comprehensive academic research facility documenting and displaying original and printed comic strips, editorial cartoons and cartoon art. The Museum is named after the Ohio cartoonist Billy Ireland.[1][2]

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

In 2011, the Museum became the source for a new publication, The Sunday Funnies, devoted to large-size (22"x16") color reprints of vintage Sunday pages.

Curator and collections

Jenny E. Robb is the Museum's curator, as of January 1, 2011. Before arriving at Ohio State in 2005, Robb was curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco for five years. She has Masters degrees in history and museum studies from Syracuse University. Wendy Pflug joined the staff as Associate Curator in December 2011. Visiting Curator Caitlin McGurk, who started February 2012, manages the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Blog.[3]

The Museum's founder and former 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:

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.[4]

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 Collection of agent Toni Mendez and the Bill Watterson 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 Syndicate donated its proof sheet collection, consisting of over two million strips (a duplicate set was donated to Michigan State University's Comic Art Collection).[5]

Comic strips and mergers

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 1998, six semi-trailer trucks transported this collection from California to Ohio.

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][6][7] 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.[1][2]

The Festival of Cartoon Art has been held triennially since 1983. Featuring two days of lectures, panel discussions, exhibitions and receptions, it attracts cartoonists, comics scholars, fans, collectors and students. Leading cartoonists have spoken at the Festival, including Lynda Barry, Milton Caniff, Will Eisner, Jules Feiffer, Ben Katchor, Patrick Oliphant, Jeff Smith, Art Spiegelman, Garry Trudeau and Bill Watterson.

The museum's collection includes work by Anne Mergen, who was the only female editorial cartoonist in the United States for much of her career.[8]


In May 2010, the Ohio State University Press announced Studies in Comics and Cartoons, a series of books edited by Caswell and Jared Gardner, Associate Professor in the Department of English. Books published in this series will focus on comics and graphic literature with monographs and edited collections covering the history of comics and cartoons from the editorial cartoon and early sequential comics of the 19th century through contemporary international comics and online comics.


Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum online gallery

Former names

  • Milton Caniff Reading Room, 1977
  • Library for Communication and Graphic Arts
  • Cartoon, Graphic, and Photographic Arts Research Library
  • Cartoon Research Library, 1989
  • Cartoon Library and Museum, July 2009
  • Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, September 2009

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 NPR: Cartoon Library & Museum
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named whoruns
  4. Tauber, Matt. "Lucy Shelton Caswell Interview - part 1", January 30, 2009.
  5. Randy Scott. "The King Features Proof Sheet Collection." Insight. [Fall 2009?] p.3
  6. Mary Pilon (July 16, 2008). "Beetle Bailey's Long March: Classic Cartoons Search for a Home". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  7. Whiteman, Doug. "Addition to make school's comic art collection really super", Associated Press, May 16, 2008.
  8. Anne Mergen Library News Ohio State University

External links

Category:1977 establishments in Ohio Category:Art museums established in 1977 Category:Art museums in Ohio Category:Cartooning museums Category:Comics-related organizations Category:Libraries established in 1977 Category:Libraries in Ohio Category:Media museums in the United States Category:Museums in Columbus Category:Ohio State University Category:University museums in Ohio

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