Construction in Sullivant Hall is Nearly Complete!

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Comics friends, fans, and family: the moment we have all been waiting for seems to be right around the corner; dressed as Ignatz and ready to throw one of the construction bricks at our enamored and awestruck heads.
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On the latest hardhat tour of our soon-to-be home in Sullivant Hall, the carefully calculated rooms now had walls, the cement flooring had settled, and the windows were all in place. The dream home dreamt up since the 1970s is now almost fully realized, with just a little over a month left before the moving process will begin.

We were joined on this final hardhat tour by the great Jeff Smith and Vijaya Iyer of Cartoon Books, our other mighty alliances in the comics city of Columbus. Below, they are pictured in our large new seminar room, named for Will Eisner.

JeffSmith&VijayaIyerEISNER

And now we invite you, dear readers, to join us on a virtual walk through of this incredible structure dedicated to the largest cartoon and comic art collection in the world. As you follow along, we hope you’ll envision yourself in here with us, cocktail in hand (but not near the artwork!), for our Grand Opening Festival this coming fall.

As you click through the images below, you will be walking through the north entrance to Sullivant Hall, which is the main entrance into the lobby of the Cartoon Library, shown in the architectural rendering here. To your right, the entrance to our reading room, separated from the lobby by a beautiful, large stained-glass window of Billy Ireland cartoons. To your left, the entrance to our offices and collection processing areas, where you will first be greeted by a receptionist in our waiting room. Directly in front of you, on the outside wall of one of our many massively expanded state-of-the-art collection storage areas, is a staircase leading up to the galleries, seminar room, and other public areas. The open second floor walkway wraps around, as seen in the top right photograph.

Although the details may all be hard to visualize when staring at photos of these wide, open spaces, the images below should give you an idea of the enormity of our new home. Our hearts and imaginations soar far wider than these camera angles can capture. Taken on the first floor of the building, the images below (in order) show a portion of our processing space that leads to our offices, the main (but not only!) collection storage area, and a gaze out into our reading room:

On the east side of Sullivant Hall, there is an entrance to the building through a gorgeous rotunda with an additional staircase leading up to our second floor. Up here, our three cartoon art galleries, exhibit prep room, seminar room, more storage, and a massive theater to be shared with the other departments. Below, a small portion of the rooms found along the second floor walk:

There is so much more to see, but we hope that for now this will wet your appetite for what’s to come for us at the end of the summer. As construction reaches a close, we are busy putting the finishing touches on our plans for relocating the collections, and arranging our exhibits and grand opening. These are busy and exciting days for all of us at the Cartoon Library, and we can’t wait to share the bounty of all of this hard work with you in the fall!

If you have not marked your calendars already, be sure to plan on joining us for the Grand Opening Festival on November 14th-17th. We know you are anxiously awaiting the details, and your patience shall soon be rewarded! Keep up with our blog for more information this summer as we pack, plan, and prepare to party in celebration of the world’s greatest home of cartoon art.

Below, two of the main people who could not be happier about this new era for the Cartoon Library; Founding Curator Lucy Shelton Caswell, and her former student at OSU, cartoonist and hard-hat-decorator Jeff Smith.

Cartoonist Jeff Smith and Founding Curator Lucy Shelton Caswell

Cartoonist Jeff Smith and Founding Curator Lucy Shelton Caswell

 

Found in the Collection: W. O. Wilson’s “Madge The Magicians Daughter”

As mentioned in yesterday’s fantastic interview on The Comics Reporter website with our head Curator Jenny Robb, one of the greatly unappreciated and enigmatic virtuosos of the newspaper comics pages was W. O. Wilson.

W.O. Wilson's "Madge The Magician's Daughter" Richard D. Olson Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

W.O. Wilson’s “Madge The Magician’s Daughter” from July 7, 1907. From the  Richard D. Olson Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Unfortunately, next to nothing is know about the artist. The great Alan Holtz of the Stripper’s Guide, however, uncovered some potential details about Wilson’s history through naturalization papers, which tell us he was born in South Africa and settled in various areas of Long Island upon arriving in New York in 1890.

W.O. Wilson's "Madge The Magician's Daughter" from April 28th, 1907. From the Richard D. Olson Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

W.O. Wilson’s “Madge The Magician’s Daughter” from April 28th, 1907. From the Richard D. Olson Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Wilson’s forgotten work steps right up to bat with other fantasy artists of the time including Winsor McCay and Lionel Feininger, and his other features–The Wish Twins and Aladdin’s Lamp, The Richleigh Family, and Horace the Hero–all hold elements of wonder as well.

W.O. Wilson's "Madge The Magician's Daughter" from March 24th, 1907. From the Richard D. Olson Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

W.O. Wilson’s “Madge The Magician’s Daughter” from March 24th, 1907. From the Richard D. Olson Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

An excellent point that Jenny Robb brings up in her article Madge’s Magic, co-authored by Richard D. Olson for the print magazine Hogan’s Alley No. 14 is that unlike his contemporaries, “Wilson made his child protagonist a girl and cast her in stories featuring dinosaurs, dragons, mermaids, pirates and Indians– the adventures usually associated with boys. The only similar example featuring a girl was The Naps of Polly Sleepyhead by Peter Newell, but after nine months Newell dropped the fantasy element and transformed it into a strip about children playing pranks.”

W.O. Wilson's "Madge The Magician's Daughter" from May 12th, 1907. From the Richard D. Olson Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

W.O. Wilson’s “Madge The Magician’s Daughter” from May 12th, 1907. From the Richard D. Olson Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

In every gorgeously full-colored installment of the feature, Madge fusses with her father’s magic wand and the tricks she has picked up from him in order to create a world in which she can impress her friends- a delightfully faithful portrayal of the imagination and desires of the young. The strip unfortunately ran for only a brief stretch, from Sept. 2, 1906 until August 15, 1907.

W.O. Wilson's "Madge The Magician's Daughter" from May 19th, 1907. From the Richard D. Olson Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

W.O. Wilson’s “Madge The Magician’s Daughter” from May 19th, 1907. From the Richard D. Olson Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Women’s History Month: Who Runs the Cartoon Library?

Since our founding in 1977 by Lucy Shelton Caswell, the patron saint of cartoon-care, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum has been curated by women. It is no secret that the world of cartooning is largely a man’s world, especially 30+ years ago when the Cartoon Library was first formed. With so much of the negative news and attention surrounding the treatment, representation, and position of many women in comics- it is an extra point of pride for us as females to celebrate running the largest collection of cartoon art in the world.

In the beginning of January 2011, the indomitable Jenny Robb became the head curator after Lucy’s retirement. Jenny had come to us from the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, where she was the head curator for five years, starting in 2000. With a background in history and museum studies, Jenny is a leading authority on political and editorial cartoon art, and an endless source of knowledge and passion for the form.  As Jenny carries us through the transition of expansion into Sullivant Hall, she has pushed to bring on two new curators to help guide the way and help support the growth of our collection. One being myself (Caitlin McGurk), and the other Wendy Pflug- who I am thrilled to introduce below.

The hard workin' Wendy Pflug

Wendy came on as the Associate Curator at the Cartoon Library just this past December of 2011. In the day-to-day, Wendy is essentially responsible for managing our entire collection. To prepare for our big move, she is doing a collection survey which consists of reviewing every single collection we have received since the 1970s, and assessing how we have cataloged it and how we provide access to it.  An important part of this process is devising plans for arranging unprocessed collections: is maintaining the original order important for a specific collection, or is there another arrangement that would intuitively make for the highest ease of access? Where would a researcher look first? When working with a collection of the magnitude of the Cartoon Library, being able to understand what we have, how much we have, and what needs to be done to make it available and findable is essential in prioritizing the work process, though not at all simple. She hopes to have a complete survey by 2013.  On top of Wendy’s collection assessment focus, she is also working with our Japanese Subject Specialist to devise a new collection development policy for our Manga collection of 17,000 volumes.

Wendy graduated from the University of Michigan with an MLIS in Archives and Records Management in 2004, and has worked with a fascinating range of archival collections since then. These have included The History Factory in Virginia, where she was contracted to catalog and organize the archives of a pharmaceutical company–Abbott Labs–including over 5,000 pharmaceutical samples. She has also worked for the African American Jazz Preservation Society of Pittsburgh as an archivist, with the records of the UE Union, and more. With an obvious thirst for learning about and mastering such unique collections in the past, diving into a cartoon art archive was just another welcomed challenge. Wendy feels that: “Processing is a puzzle- you have all of these separate pieces, but when you figure out how to put them together you can construct someone’s entire life, or the history of a corporation. Every piece matters, and you need each one to make sense of the rest.” She describes herself as a “generalist” or a “tour guide”, using her career as a way to spend life learning and understanding the history of others and the human condition. That is the humble and inspiring attitude of a natural-born librarian, and we are all absolutely thrilled to have her on board with us!

Now to quickly introduce- myself!

I’m Caitlin McGurk, the Visiting Curator here at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. I started this dream position a little over a month ago on February 1st, and couldn’t be happier to be here. My focus is on outreach and engagment, to further cultivate and raise awareness of our collection. This spans everything from running our social networking sites and blog, to working with contemporary cartoonists to keep our collection modernized, teaching classes at the Cartoon Library, assisting in the scheduling, planning and designing of exhibits, and more. With our upcoming move to Sullivant Hall, I hope to greatly increase our public presence, and someday turn Columbus into the top destination in America for cartoonists and comic fans alike! Hey, you never know.

Me (Caitlin McGurk) and my boyfriend, Alfred E. Neuman.

As an avid comics fan and cartoonist/zinester myself, when going into school for my MLIS degree I was absolutely fixated on working with the comics medium- someway, somehow! The prophecy was fulfilled, and my professional experiences as a librarian have just about all involved working with comics. These include Marvel Comics, Columbia University’s Bulliet Comics Collection, The Center for Cartoon Studies, and more. I have also written for Diamond Comics’ Bookshelf magazine for educators and librarians, self published my own works, and try to remain active in the comics community at large. Becoming a comics librarian was the best idea I have ever had.

Thanks for keeping up with our blog, and I hope you’ll check back to find updates about female comics creators and contributors for the rest of Women’s History month!

Teaching in the Cartoon Library

During the winter quarter this year at OSU, we had the pleasure of hosting 9 classes from a variety of disciplines at the Cartoon Library. Each class was interested in exploring the significance and potential of comics and cartoons within the scope of their subject.

Curator Jenny Robb talking about editorial cartoons to Professor Soland's History 398: Introduction to Historical Thoughts & Methods

Among these classes were Prof. Ben Owen’s English 110: First Year English Composition; Prof. Suzanne Silver’s Art 470: Intermediate Drawing and Art 670: Advanced Drawing; Prof. Barry Shank’s Pop Culture Studies; Prof. Caitlin Stokes’ Art 205; Prof. Soland’s History 398: Introduction to Historical Thought and Methods;  Prof. Christine Ballengee Morris’ Art Education 367.01: Ethnic Arts, and Nicholas Hetrick’s World Literature class from Wellington High School.  Several of these classes also used our materials for specific assignments.

English 110.02: First-Year English Composition - Comics and Culture 

As a first-level composition course, the focus of Professor Owen’s class is on academic writing and revision. An introduction class that many of us are very familiar with from undergraduate studies, but with a unique spin on it: the focus is entirely on comics. The class explored everything from newspaper strips to web comics, graphic novels to avant-garde anthologies.

In Prof. Owen’s syllabus, he explains: “The medium of comics is one of clarity and compression—conveying the largest amount of information in the smallest space possible. When done well, a comic can convey a world of ideas without the reader even noticing.” … “The principle of analysis is that you can find out the most about an object by looking carefully at its individual parts and examining how those parts work together. Comics make for a particularly rewarding subject in this regard, because behind their deceptively simple, apparently kid-friendly surfaces, we can find out a great deal about the secrets of space, time, life, art, the universe, and everything. Moreover, at a time when culture is increasingly visual, and the basis of literacy has more and more to do with understanding how to present information spatially, comics offer sophisticated models for thinking and writing in space.”

During English 110′s trip to the Cartoon Library, they took a look at materials ranging from Kramer’s Ergot 7 to Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland. Having read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics in class, their goal was to analyze one of the pieces pulled for them in the Cartoon Library in the context of one of McCloud’s theories about the medium, such as how the gutter is the defining feature of comics, how time works on a page, identification through simplification of ideas, etc. The end result is a two-page paper that looks at how the cartoonist uses the tools of the comics format to convey his or her message, and whether or not McCloud’s claims apply.  Students can either agree with McCloud and use the comic they selected as a primary source and Understanding Comics as their evidence, or disagree with McCloud, using Understanding Comics as their primary source and the comic as their evidence.  The purpose of Prof. Owen’s field trip and assignment is to get his students to look at a unique medium and position themselves in an academic debate on the subject.

 

Art 470 & 670: Intermediate & Advanced Drawing – Narrative, Art & Language

Professor Suzzane Silver brought both her Intermediate Drawing and Advanced Drawing classes to the Cartoon Library to take a look at language and narrative in comics. Most of the students were brand new to the medium, and became exposed to originals of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, Andrei Molotiu’s Abstract Comics anthology, Lynd Ward’s woodcut novels, the work of Kevin Huizenga, originals from Walt Kelly’s Pogo, and much more.

In the syllabus for Prof. Silver’s class trip to the Cartoon Library, she asks the students to “Create a series of drawings involving a form of narrative or anti-narrative. What is the relationship of narrative to the structure of the page? Is the structure sustained or subverted?”  The students took a particular interest in the Abstract Comics anthology, and the concept of using nonrepresentational shapes on a page in a way that presents a story arc, without any formal narrative in play. Their assignment included researching and presenting about an artist from a list provided by Prof. Silver including Henry Darger, Raymond Pettibon, Duchamp, Art Spiegelman.

If you are a professor and would like to bring your class into the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, we would love to have you–no matter the discipline! We are constantly finding new and exciting ways to connect comics and cartoon art to nearly every subject matter. We ask that you give us a minimum of one month advance notice to arrange a class visit or library tour, in order to make it the best possible experience for you and your students.  Contact us at cartoons@osu.edu and include the course name and number, your goals or objectives for the visit, the number of students and your preferred date or dates.  If you are interested in viewing specific materials, use our Search Tools to locate the object title, creator, and finding number or consult with a library staff member.