Special Collections Research Center awarded NHPRC grant for cartoon collections

The Syracuse University Library’s Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) has been awarded a grant of $79,440 by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to support the arrangement and description of the library’s 134 unprocessed collections of original cartoon art. The funds will help support a full-time project archivist for a period of two years. The award to Syracuse was one of six “Detailed Processing Grants” awarded by NHPRC and the Archivist of the United States. Other recipients included Princeton University and the University of Chicago.

Syracuse’s collection of original cartoon art is among the most comprehensive in the U.S. It includes over 20,000 original works by approximately 173 artists and comprises more than 1,000 linear feet of material. Spanning the course of the 20th century, it includes both serial and editorial cartoons.

Among the serial cartoonists represented are: Bud Fisher, whose Mutt and Jeff was the earliest successful daily comic strip; Mort Walker, whose Beetle Bailey anticipated the changing notions of American masculinity and militarism during the Cold War; Hal Foster, whose lavishly illustrated Prince Valiant elevated the artistic ambitions of the genre; and Morrie Turner, whose Wee Pals was the first comic strip to chronicle the lives of racial and ethnic minorities in American life.

The editorial and political cartoonists represented in the collection include: William Gropper, whose leftist political cartoons in the Daily Worker raised working class consciousness during World War II; F.O. Alexander, whose everyman alter-ego “Joe Doakes” experienced the turbulence of the 1960s in the pages of the Philadelphia Bulletin; and Carey Orr, whose editorial cartoons appeared in the Chicago Tribune for nearly fifty years.
The physical cartoons in Syracuse’s collection are as wide-ranging and diverse as the artists that created them, assuming countless shapes, sizes, and media including pencil, pen, and gouache on paper. Over the next two years, the project archivist will take steps to ensure that the cartoons are housed in archival-quality containers. He or she will also draft online, searchable finding aids so that they are accessible to researchers and individuals all over the world.

The NHPRC grant is exciting news for scholars who specialize in the genre, casual fans, and, of course, for Syracuse University, which has held many of these collections since the 1960s. For the full list of the Commission’s 2008 grants, see http://www.archives.gov/press/press-releases/2008/nr08-106.html

About the Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library

With more than 100,000 printed works and 2,000 manuscript and archival collections, SCRC holds some of Syracuse University’s most precious treasures, including early printed editions of Gutenberg, Galileo, and Sir Isaac Newton as well as the library of 19th century German historian Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886). SCRC’s holdings are particularly strong in the 20th century; they include the personal papers and manuscripts of such luminaries as artist Grace Hartigan (1922- ), inspirational preacher Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993), author Joyce Carol Oates (1938- ), photojournalist Margaret Bourke White (1904-1971), and architect Marcel Breuer (1902-1981). SCRC strives to be a “humanities laboratory” where librarians and scholars collaborate with the artifacts of history in an ongoing and vital learning process. Home to a new, state-of-the-art instructional seminar room, SCRC also regularly hosts exhibitions, lectures and classes focusing on its collections.

For more information, visit the web site at http://library.syr.edu/find/scrc/

For more information on this project, contact Sean Quimby, director of the Special Collections Research Center at 315 443-9759 or smquimby@syr.edu.

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