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Ohio State’s New Comic + Cartoon Museum

(Flickr)

It’s been 38 years in the making, and it finally opened over the weekend at Ohio State University in Columbus — the world’s largest cartoon museum.

It’s the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, and it has millions of newspaper comic strips, books and cartoons dating to 1798. It’s named after the former editorial cartoonist for The Columbus Dispatch. His family donated a big chunk of money for the project. Ohio State officials have been collecting the cartoons since 1977.

It was the idea of cartoonist Milton Caniff. His “Terry and the Pirates” and “Steve Canyon” adventure strips appeared in newspapers for 50 years.

He graduated from Ohio State and loved the place so much that he wanted his original work and other papers to be kept there permanently. So he gave all of his work to the university in 1977. Then he went to work urging other cartoonists to do the same. It was slow at first, but two classrooms in the journalism building began to fill with donations.

Today, the museum has more than 300,000 original strips from all of the important newspaper comic strip artists in the world, plus 45,000 books, 29,000 comic books and 2,400 boxes of written material, fan mail and other personal papers. It’s the largest collection of cartoon art and artifacts in the world. But what’s sad is that so much of the original work that appeared in newspapers was lost because for many years original comic strips were just thrown out. The animation celluloid sheets — known as “cels” — were usually just wiped clean and reused.

Think of all of the classic comic strips; Beetle Bailey, Doonesbury, Dick Tracy, Blondie, Family Circus, Pogo, Popeye, Beetle Bailey, Hi and Lois. They’re all there.

Some of the collection is after comic and cartoon arts museums in Florida and San Francisco were forced to close after running into financial problems.

The museum’s regular hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 pm.

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