Sunday morning offered tours of the inner workings of the new museum, which we should begin with a little background information, starting with the namesake, Billy Ireland.
William Addison Ireland was a legendary staff cartoonist at the Columbus Dispatch, where he worked for his entire career, from 1898 to 1935, becoming a local celebrity and hiring as well as mentoring a young cartoonist named Milton Caniff.
Ireland's signature piece was a full-page Sunday feature, "The Passing Show," which featured commentary on whatever was going on in the area. This is the kind of local content that made newspapers a part of their community and makes the sloughing off of local cartoonists not simply an artistic tragedy but an inexpicably foolish business move.
(The term "full-page"referred to something larger in those days, of course, but, even as the newspaper is replaced by the newspamphlet, it's still worth making an effort to offer something that people might want to buy. Or maybe I don't understand these things.)
Billy's protege, Milton Caniff, donated his papers and more -- including this Reuben award -- to Ohio State, and Billy's heirs donated $7 million, which gave them naming rights and turned a collection into what is now a major research facility and a magnet for other collections.
For instance, Mort Walker had for years attempted to create a cartooning museum and had gone through a couple of locations until the endless fundraising became less attractive than letting the Billy Ireland, with its more stable endowment, shoulder the effort and become the repository of his collection of 300,000 artifacts.
The museum also gained the collection of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, which arrived in six semi-trailers and is still being catalogued, along with collections from the major syndicates and an impressive list of cartoonists.
This weekend was the triennial festival but also the culmination of a $13 million fundraising effort and building project, and there was a steady stream of aficianados for Sunday's tour of the museum's inner sanctum.
And, I'm sure, a steady stream of jokes about sneaking back in to loot the collection. There were plenty in the group I went through with, and this was not, overall, a group that lacked for wags.
It is a collection worth lusting over. One of the important things in the impressive opening gallery show was that it be created entirely from material in the permanent collection.
The stacks are not simply closed and not simply secured by swipe cards but those swipe cards are limited to senior staff, which may sound overly cautious, but special collections around the country have been plagued in recent years by "scholars" who razor-out collectible graphics for resale. A collection much of which consists of collectible graphics needs to be particularly secure.
However, anyone can go to the library's Lucy Caswell Reading Room -- named for the museum's founding presence whose Segar Award, presented to her Saturday, is already on its shelves -- and request to examine not simply those treasures but, for instance, items from the personal correspondence of a number of cartoonists.
That particular box in the photo at right is letters to "For Better or For Worse" cartoonist Lynn Johnston, including letters both praising and scolding her for the "death of Farley" sequence, the originals of which are on display in the current exhibit (scroll down), but also anything else people felt motivated to write to her about.
It's pointless to try to list everything in the collection here, but they had laid out certain items for the benefit of the tour, including a Hogan's Alley/Yellow Kid tearsheet from Bill Blackbeard's collection.
And they were showing several Japanese pages from the 1920s, examples of when the word "manga" entered the cartoon lexicon.
The museum also has a number of three-dimensional artifacts and, when the student conducting the tour spoke of opening one box of Mort Walker's ephemera and began to describe for us the tin lunch boxes that kids used to carry to school, there was a slight groan from those on the tour who consider tin lunch boxes to be "nostalgia" rather than "ancient history" requiring explanation.
(Which reminds me that one of the evening conversations included someone being surprised to have met students who didn't know "Calvin and Hobbes,"and someone else pointing out that the strip ended in 1995, which means a current college freshman would have been teething, not reading, the day the pair disappeared to go exploring.)
In any case, the bulk of the ephemera was squirreled away out of view in the stacks, but there's a selection currently on display in the museum.
I would point out that much of what is in this picture does, in fact, predate my own childhood. Perhaps not quite half, but much.
We'll take a last look at the weekend and the museum tomorrow. But enough for now. I think that, by Sunday, everyone was pretty tired and just wanted to sit down with a friend and relax.