Now accepting applications for the 2020 Lucy Shelton Caswell Research Award


This award of up to $2500 supports researchers who need to travel to Columbus, OH to use the collections of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Awards may be used to defray travel expenses, living expenses in Columbus, or research costs.


The award is open to non-OSU graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars (including scholars with or without advanced degrees or without institutional affiliations) who are at least 18 years old and live more than 60 miles from the Ohio State University’s main campus. Both foreign and domestic applicants are invited to apply.


Applications will be evaluated based on the originality and significance of the research topic, the potential of the project to contribute to new scholarship or creative works, the relevance of the collection materials to the project, and evidence of the need to use the materials on-site. We encourage applicants from all disciplines who are using cartoons or comics in their research projects. Our holdings of books, serials, original art, and archival collections can be searched at our website.


Will Eisner and Lucy Shelton Caswell

Will Eisner and Lucy Shelton Caswell

This award was made possible by a generous gift from the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation, which was matched by many additional donors to create the Lucy Shelton Caswell Research Award Endowment. Will Eisner was a major cartoonist, writer, educator and entrepreneur. He was one of the earliest cartoonists to work in the American comic book industry, and his series, The Spirit (1940–1952), was noted for its experiments in content and form. In 1978, he popularized the term “graphic novel” with the publication of his book A Contract With God. He was an early contributor to formal comics studies with his book Comics and Sequential Art (1985). The Eisner Family Foundation continues his support of the cartoon arts. The Will Eisner Seminar Room in the BICLM was named in honor of the late cartoonist.

The award is named for the founding curator of the BICLM, Professor Emerita Lucy Shelton Caswell. Prior to her retirement, her scholarly work and teaching focused on the history of newspaper comic strips and the history of American editorial cartoons. She has curated more than seventy-five cartoon-related exhibits and is the author of several articles and books, the most recent being the revised edition of Billy Ireland. Caswell is co-editor of The Ohio State University Press Studies in Cartoons and Comics series. She also serves as the vice president of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, the annual citywide celebration of cartoon art.


Submit the following application materials to :

  • A statement not to exceed two pages describing your research project, the relevance of the collections of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum to that project, the amount of time you think you need to complete your research at the BICLM, and the expected outcome of the research.
  • A summary curriculum vitae/resume not to exceed three pages including name, title, education, and contact information;
  • One letter of recommendation. The letter may be sent separately from the other materials, but applicants need to include the name, e-mail address and relationship of the person writing the letter for the applicant.


To be considered, all applications must be received by November 1, 2019.


A committee appointed by the Curator will review the applications and select the award recipients.  Decisions will be announced on December 15, 2019. Queries about applications in process cannot be acknowledged.  Award recipients and their research projects will be recognized in Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and University Libraries’ publicity.


All communications regarding the award should be submitted to

Timing of the research visit will be mutually arranged, but must take place within the 12 months fiscal year following the successful notification of the award.

Recipient will meet with Curator to agree on final research product and date of completion during research visit.  Details of this agreement must to submitted prior to end of the research visit.

Recipient of the 2020 award must complete their research by June 30, 2021.

Recipient will share their work with the university community through an open presentation, blog post, or other appropriate means by June 30, 2021.

Recipient will provide a brief statement or report describing research visit and summarizing the results of their research by July 31, 2021.

Products of research must acknowledge the Lucy Shelton Caswell Research Award, give credit to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.  The researcher will submit a copy of any publication resulting from or informed by research to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum by June 30, 2021.


  • November 1, 2019: Deadline for all applications; must be received or postmarked by this date
  • December 15, 2019: Recipient will be notified
  • January 30, 2020: Recipient must complete paperwork that will enable payment
  • June 1, 2020: Recipient may begin making research visits
  • June 30, 2021: Recipients must complete their onsite research visits and knowledge sharing with the university by this date
  • July 30. 2021: Deadline to submit a brief statement or report describing research visit and summarizing results of research visit.



Researchers at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum from Australia, Germany and Singapore

New Exhibit: Ladies First: A Century of Women’s Innovations in Comics and Cartoon Art

OhioStateLogoContact: Caitlin McGurk
The Ohio State University
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
1813 N High St.
Columbus OH 43210-1393

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 17, 2019

Upcoming Exhibition at The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum


November 2, 2019 – May 3, 2020

Mary Fleener, 1992

(Columbus, OH) – The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum presents Ladies First: A Century of Women’s Innovations in Comics and Cartoon Art Nov. 2, 2019-May 3, 2020. From the first female political cartoonist and the first female-created superhero, to the feminist voices that emerged from underground and alternative comics, Ladies First is a celebration of how women have defined the field of comics and cartoon art for generations.

Women have always pushed cartoon art forward. A century ago, suffragettes transformed cartooning to champion their cause. In the booming newspaper comic strip era, artists like Jackie Ormes, Nell Brinkley, and Rose O’Neil found enormous success marketing and licensing their characters into products that would influence young people for decades. Contemporary artists carve out a place between fact and fiction to share deeply personal stories in underground comix, graphic novels and anthologies.

Drawing on women’s voices from the margins to the center, this exhibit surveys women’s innovations in comics and cartoon art, tracking their contributions to the field. Included are works from early suffragette cartoonists, the queens of the comic strip pages, mainstream comic book artists, communities of self-published minicomics creators, and everyone in between.

Curated by Caitlin McGurk and Rachel Miller, the exhibit features works by Nina Allender, Dale Messick, Edwina Dumm, Aline Kominsky Crumb, Nell Brinkley, Lynda Barry, June Tarpe Mills, Dori Seda, Barbara Brandon-Croft, Trina Robbins, Marie Severin, Rose O’Neil, Jackie Ormes, Lynn Johnston, Liana Finck, Wendy Pini, Kate Salley Palmer, Carta Monir, Alison Bechdel and dozens more.

Ladies First ushers in the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment and calls attention to the transformative work of women artists in the field of cartooning then and now.

For more information, visit

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, part of The Ohio State University Libraries, houses the world’s largest collection of materials related to cartoons and comics, including original art, books, magazines, journals, comic books, archival materials and newspaper comic strip pages and clippings.

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