Tag: Lucy Shelton Caswell

Construction in Sullivant Hall is Nearly Complete!

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.

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.


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


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!

Found in the Collection: Winsor McCay’s “The Tale of the Jungle Imps”

In 2006, a phone call came to the Cartoon Library for curator Lucy Caswell  from a local business woman asking that Lucy take a look at some old cartoon drawings she had found. When the woman arrived the next day with a shabby, portfolio-sized cardboard box, no one could have guessed the magnitude of the discovery she had made in the back of her grandfather’s old shop.

Inside, were eleven large original Winsor McCay drawings of his comic feature The Tale of the Jungle Imps. Unlike the originals from McCay’s other strips, all eleven of the Jungle Imps were fully and beautifully hand-colored with watercolor. This was McCay’s very first color newspaper comic strip–and until the discovery of these eleven pages–no other originals were known to have survived. Over 100 years after the 1903 debut of Jungle Imps in the Cincinnati Enquirer, it’s nothing short of a miracle that these originals would resurface in the one city in America with an academic research library devoted entirely to printed cartoon and comic art.   The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum acquired five of the eleven originals, which joined the rest of our extensive McCay collection including original Gertie the Dinosaur animation drawings, Little Nemo In Slumberland originals, and newspaper tear sheets of McCay’s comic strips and editorial cartoons.

The Tale of the Jungle Imps was a collaboration between McCay and George Randolph Chester, who wrote the rhymes for each comic under the pseudonym “Felix Fiddle.” The premise was a spoof on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, published the previous year. In each Jungle Imps episode, we are presented with an origin story about how a particular animal came to acquire its unique characteristic.  Each animal falls prey to the teasing of the three jungle imps: Boo-boo, Gack, and Hickey, until it receives a physical feature that helps it defend itself.

How The Quillypig Got His Quills

In the excerpt highlighted here from How The Quillypig Got His Quills,  the story explains that quillypigs (*porcupines) once had colorful quills made of the most delicious candy. Of course, the imps could not resist chasing the pigs around to pull their candy-quills out and eat them. When the quillypigs could no longer take the torture, Verse 4 “Tells How One Well-Plucked Quillypig Went For A Gun.”  Lucky for our jungle imps, the quillypig ended up before a very clever gunsmith, “Mr. Monkey”, who instead suggested a replacement coat of sharp quills with springs on the end to teach the imps a lesson.

The clever Mr. Monkey watches over, as his assistant replaces the quillypigs candy-quills with sharp ones. In the background is Felix Fiddle, the silent observer who appears in each Jungle Imps tale. (click to enlarge)

To see our complete collection of Winsor McCay’s Jungle Imps in more detail, please check out our Jungle Imps Digital Album!


*Porcupines (click to enlarge)

Blog Launch, and the Construction of Our New Home in Sullivant Hall

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.

Founding Curator Lucy Shelton Caswell, and Milton Caniff

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)

A small portion of our art cases for originals, with single-issue comics storage in the background (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.

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 300,000 originals, nearly 45,000 books, 67,000 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!