Exhibits at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. Credit: Andrew Todd-Smith / Senior Lantern reporter

Comic lovers, art enthusiasts and history buffs alike have two new attractions to look forward to on Ohio State’s campus.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, which occupies the northern section of Sullivant Hall, is set to introduce two new featured exhibits Saturday.

Outreach coordinator Caitlin McGurk said one display called “Will Eisner: 75 Years of Graphic Storytelling” will consist of a retrospective of the work of its namesake cartoonist. The other will commemorate the capture of the Civil Rights Movement in comic and animated art as an homage to the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

As part of the latter exhibit, portions of an autobiographical graphic novel trilogy being written by Congressman John Lewis of Georgia will be displayed.

“He’ll be exhibiting parts of his memoir for his talk,” McGurk said, referencing a planned visit by Lewis to OSU scheduled to take place Sept. 15.

The arrival of Lewis, an active member of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, is set to coincide with an archival display coordinated by the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library commemorating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

“We wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” said Jenny Robb, associate professor curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. “So the libraries decided to do joint exhibitions, one in the Thompson Library gallery and one in the Cartoon (Library) gallery … Our exhibition focuses on cartoons and comics and draws from our collections.

“We’re also borrowing pieces from an extraordinary book called ‘March’ that is the graphic memoir of civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis.”

McGurk said the exhibit, “Long March: Civil Rights in Cartoons and Comics,” will highlight clippings from the first two installments of Lewis’ trilogy. “March: Book One” was published in August 2013, while “March: Book Two” is set to be released this coming winter.
Robb said the exhibit will include “historical and editorial cartoons from the 1960s and 70s that tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement from different perspectives. And we’re also showing how the movement affected newspaper comic strips and comic books.”

Robb said some rare original works of former Pittsburgh Courier cartoonist Sam Milai will be featured as well.

With regard to the Eisner exhibit that is planned, the cartoonist’s name is already featured prominently in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library.

A seminar room for teaching classes named after Eisner is located on the second story of the Cartoon Library. His family has donated money to OSU through the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation in the past. Eisner died in 2005.

“The Will Eisner collection is one of the first cartoon collections that came to Ohio State,” Robb said. “So we have had that for a number of years and Will Eisner and his family have added to that over the years.

“What we have are his papers, so a lot of his correspondence and his business papers, in addition to some of his original art.”

In addition to the rotating exhibits, the Cartoon Library features a permanent installation known as “Treasures from the Collections of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.” This is a small sampling of some of the more high-profile pieces owned by the facility, including original clippings from Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), Mort Walker (“Beetle Bailey”) and Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”).

McGurk said her library houses “over 300,000 pieces of original art, 2.5 million comic strip clippings and tear sheets, 45,000 books and graphic novels … and 3,000 linear feet of manuscript materials, from fan letters to contracts and receipts of cartoonists.”

“With any exhibition, the important thing is to determine what your narrative is and to help people understand that narrative,” Robb said.

Both rotating exhibits will remain open through Nov. 30.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum is not circulating and operates like a rare books collection in which pieces must remain on site. The facility is open to the public, however, and is located at 1813 N. High St.