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Reporter’s Notebook: Discovering the Billy Ireland Museum

Posted by Anthony Dominic on March 6, 2014

In the days before I moved to Columbus, I found a pocket-size notebook in the back of my closet. Impetuously, I stuffed it into my suitcase. Later, while driving U.S. Route 71 toward Columbus, I resolved to learn (at least) one factoid about my soon-to-be home every day. I would record each item in the notebook.

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I’m happy to report my list, now in the thirties, is going strong. Some days it’s difficult to limit myself to a single entry. Other days are no-brainers—like Day 12, when I made one of my favorite discoveries: Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is the largest comic and cartoon art depository in the world. That’s 2.5 million clippings, 300,000 original cartoons, 67,000 serials, 45,000 books and 3,000 feet of manuscript, according to the museum’s website. The archives are as vast as they are eclectic, varying from Mort Walker’s “Beetle Bailey” to Will Eisner’s “The Spirit” to Homer Davenport’s political cartoons.

The Milton Caniff Collection—donated by the Ohio State alumnus himself—became the museum’s founding collection in 1977. The Milton Caniff Reading Room, as it was known at the time, was housed in a pair of converted classrooms in Ohio State’s Journalism Building. Following a $7 million donation from the Elizabeth Ireland Graves Foundation, the museum took the name of Billy Ireland, the longtime Columbus Dispatch cartoonist, in 2009. This gift launched the renovation project which culminated last November when the museum moved into its new 30,000-foot facility in Sullivant Hall.

The museum’s galleries open at 1 p.m. every day but Monday. Free tours of the library’s stacks are also offered, but an appointment three weeks in advance is requested.

Postscript: Check out our forthcoming May issue for my story on a special collaboration between the Billy Ireland Museum and the Wexner Center for the Arts.

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