World’s Largest Cartoon Museum To Open In Columbus This Weekend


UPDATED: Thursday November 14, 2013 5:05 PM

Before most of us could read, we picked up a crayon to draw pictures and tell a story.  Some children traded a crayon for a pen and ink and went on to become cartoonists.

This weekend, the largest museum in the world dedicated to their art will open on the OSU campus.  

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum houses 300,000 original cartoons, 45,000 books, and two and a half million comic strip clippings from newspapers.  The oldest item is a political cartoon from 1798.  It depicts two Congressmen fighting on the floor of the House of Representatives.  One wields a cane.  One waves fireplace tongs.

"Cartoons are a unique art form because they combine text and images, and I think we see ourselves in them," said Jenny Robb, the museum curator.

She said that cartoons can tell a story, make us laugh, or try to persuade us to adopt an idea. They are like tiny time capsules.

"We can see what people thought was humorous, what they were afraid of, what they were interested in, so we can learn a lot from cartoons," she said.

The museum is named in honor of the first cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch, Billy Ireland.  In the early part of the twentieth century, he drew a whole page of cartoons for the paper, called "The Passing Show."

OSU began to acquire its collection when Ireland's protégé, Milton Caniff, donated his original works to the university in 1977. He started at the Dispatch, but went on to national newspaper syndication with his comic strips, Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon.

Robb hopes to rotate the cartoons and comics, with several different shows each year.

"Deciding what gets displayed is tough, because we have so many wonderful things.  But really, when you pick the theme of the show and you start looking at the art work and you start trying to figure out what will fit the theme the best, that's when you start to narrow down and start to make selections," she said.

One current display shows how a cartoon is created, from the first sketch to the printed product.  

Robb said she hopes the public will enjoy the opening show.

" I hope they see some of their old friends, some of the cartoons and comics they're familiar with.  And I hope they discover new things, things they may never have seen before but that are funny, that are fun, that are interesting, that are beautiful works of art."

The museum opens this Saturday at 10a.m.  After this weekend, the hours will be 1p.m. to 5p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free.

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