Comics and cartoons are among the world’s most influential art forms. In recent decades, comic books have inspired countless blockbuster movies, graphic novels have garnered critical acclaim, and political cartoons have helped to frame important debates. Surprisingly, there are only a handful of museums in the world dedicated to this medium. But fortunately, the world’s largest collection of comic and cartoon art is right here in Columbus, at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.
Their recently-renovated space on the Ohio State University contains almost half a million original cartoons and 2.5 million clippings. Their exhibits, which change every few months, showcase classic art from “Calvin & Hobbes,” “Mad Magazine,” and other favorites, as well as examining themes in historic and political cartoons. They also offer events including a triannual Festival of Cartoon Art.
The collection began in 1977 when Milton Caniff, an Ohio native and cartoonist best known for the comic strips “Terry and the Pirates” and “Steve Canyon” donated his personal collection to OSU’s journalism department. It has grown rapidly since, incorporating many more collections including that of the National Cartoon Museum in Florida, which closed in 2002. In 2009 it moved into its current space in OSU’s Sullivant Hall, which was renovated with help from benefactors including Jean Schultz, widow of “Peanuts” creator Charles Schultz, and Bill Keane, creator of “The Family Circus.”
At the same time, the museum was renamed to honor local cartoonist Billy Ireland. Ireland was a native of Chillicothe, Ohio who spent his entire career with the Columbus Dispatch, creating illustrations and editorial cartoons as well as a weekly feature called “The Passing Show.” He was known for insightful satire of Columbus people and politics.
Cover image: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.