Collection Development Policy


Collecting Rationale and Purpose:

BICLM Mission Statement: The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum inspires the study and appreciation of cartoon and comics art. As a cultural heritage center, we collect, preserve and make accessible materials that represent a diversity of voices for research, teaching, exhibitions, and educational programming.

Collection Development Statement: The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum seeks to acquire artistically and historically significant materials that document the cultural heritage of cartoons and comics in order to facilitate sustained, innovative and substantial research.  The purpose of this policy is to provide a framework for the acquisition of collections that support scholarship, education, and engagement of The Ohio State University community, and constituencies beyond the campus, including local, national, and international scholars and researchers, the public, and the comics and cartooning community.

Selection Process

Acquisitions decisions about any individual item or collection are made by a committee of BICLM staff in consultation when necessary with members of our Faculty Advisory Committee and National Advisory Council.  Our modest annual acquisitions budget is used mostly for shipping donations and for purchasing print materials. The majority of our holdings of original art and archival materials have been, and will continue to be, acquired as donations (gifts-in-kind).  We remain grateful to all of those individuals who have donated materials that have contributed to making this collection the largest of its kind in the world.

The acquisitions committee makes decisions on a case-by-case basis. Factors include:

  • Alignment with current collecting priorities and initiatives
  • Research value
  • Exhibition opportunities
  • Impact of the work or creator on the art, business, or history of comics and cartoons
  • Rarity or uniqueness of materials
  • If materials duplicate current holdings
  • If BICLM is the principal archive or repository of record of the individual or organization
  • Physical condition of materials
  • The cost of shipping, preserving, rehousing, storing, cataloging, and making materials available
  • Storage space limitations

In general, the BICLM is unable to accept materials that come with permanent access restrictions or requirements to exhibit.

Donation offers are always welcome and encouraged; however, due to limited resources, there may be periods of time when we cannot accept new donations.



BICLM seeks to collect:

  • A representative sample of all cartoonists’ work
  • Materials that document the contributions, creative process, community, and business endeavors of cartoonists, comics creators, associated individuals, businesses, and organizations
  • Materials that document comics scholarship
  • Materials that represent diverse voices and perspectives
  • Materials that support a reparative collecting strategy addressing past collecting practices that preferenced documenting dominant and privileged communities.
  • Materials that enhance connections among the BICLM’s existing collections
  • Materials that support the research, teaching, cultural heritage, and community engagement mission of the Libraries and The Ohio State University

Types of Materials

The BICLM collects library, art, and archival materials that support the educational and land-grant mission of The Ohio State University.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Library: books, comic books, magazines, fanzines, journals, minicomics, newspapers
  • Art: rough and finished art, prints, posters, sculptures
  • Archives: correspondence, business papers and contracts, drafts, research material, photographs, juvenilia, scrapbooks, proofs, merchandise, and ephemera

The BICLM collects both analog and digital material and emphasis is placed on acquiring materials in their original states.

Current Collecting Focus and Priorities

The BICLM’s current collecting priorities are based on areas of existing strengths and adding new collections that respond to academic needs related to teaching and research specialties. Preference is given to collections and objects documenting the history of comics in the United States. International materials will be selectively collected in order to provide representative examples of non-US work and to give context to the cultural influence and exchange between American and non-American creators. We are particularly seeking works by women and other historically underrepresented and/or marginalized creators in the comics field.

  1. Primary Collecting Areas

The subject areas and genres as noted below represent our strengths and areas we will to collect as comprehensively as resources allow:

  • Newspaper Comic Strips
  • Underground Comix
  • Editorial Cartoons and graphic journalism
  • Magazine/Gag/Single-panel cartoons
  • Graphic Novels (Not including trade paperbacks)
  • S. Cartoonists Professional Associations Archives
  • Proto-comics and early (pre-1900) caricatures/cartoons
  • Minicomics and comics fanzines
  • Works by and about creators from historically underrepresented/marginalized populations including Indigenous, Latinx, Black, women, and LGBTQ+ creators
  • Works that feature stories, voices, characters and themes related to social justice and the representation of underrepresented/marginalized communities.
  • Humor and other select periodicals with substantial cartoon content
  • Business of cartooning/comics (publishing, syndicates, licensing, etc.)


  1. Secondary Collecting Areas

The subject areas and formats noted below represent supporting strengths and will be collected on a representative and case-by-case basis:

  • International cartoons and comics, including (but not limited to):
    • Manga
    • Franco-Belgian
    • Latin American/Spanish language
  • “Mainstream” comic book art and archival material
  • Scholarly comics research files
  • Biographical file material – articles about cartoonists
  • Cartoon/Comic Limited Edition Prints


  1. Tertiary Collecting Areas (lower priority)

When the Ohio State University Libraries began collecting comics and cartoon materials more than 45 years ago, it was one of very few educational and art institutions doing so.  In the 2020s, the environment has changed dramatically and there are now many academic libraries and museums collecting in this area for their permanent and special collections.  Due to limitations of space, staff and funding, we have identified some types of materials that we will only collect very selectively, as well as some that we are no longer currently accepting. Some of these areas are covered by other institutions. For others, we have significant holdings that we are still cataloging and do not yet know what gaps we have.

  • Comics fan culture (convention material): Due to other institutions currently collecting in this area, we will only collect this type of material very selectively.
  • Animation: Our permanent collection includes a substantial and wide-ranging collection of animation art, including a significant collection from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection. Due to space and resource limitations, we are not generally seeking to expand our holdings in this area beyond what we currently house.
  • Children’s book illustrations: We seek to collect examples of children’s book illustrations only when the creators are primarily known for their cartooning and comics work or the work is directly related to cartoons or comics.
  • Illustration (non-comic): Our permanent collection includes work by non-comic illustrators, but we are not currently seeking to expand our holdings in this area beyond what we currently house.
  • Collections of “mainstream” single-issue comic books: The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum has a long-standing arrangement with the Comic Art Collection at Michigan State University, which specializes in collecting single-issue comic books. In keeping with this arrangement, we do not collect single-issue comic books comprehensively and will only collect representative examples of titles, creators, publishers, time periods, and characters.  Specific types of single issue comic books we are seeking at this time:
    • Golden Age comic books (comics published between the years 1930s to 1950s) not already represented in our collections
    • Comic books featuring historically significant titles and characters not already represented in our collections
    • Comic books by and featuring the representation of historically underrepresented/ marginalized communities not already represented in our collections
  • We will also consider single-issue comic books that are part of larger collections of other types of materials. For example, if we accept a cartoonist’s art and papers and their collections includes single issue comics.
  • Newspaper comic strip clippings or pages: we are currently in the process of rehousing and cataloging the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection (SFACA), which includes millions of newspaper comic strip clippings, comics pages, and Sunday comics sections. Until we have completed this work and know exactly what we already have, we will be collecting additional newspaper comic strip clippings/pages very selectively. At this time, we are still accepting newspaper clippings, pages or sections from the following:
    • The Black Press comics (Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier, and other newspapers created by and for African American communities)
    • Other newspapers that are underrepresented in the SFACA Collection
  • Papers of writers and editors of mainstream comic books
    • Due to other universities specializing in this area, we will be collecting very selectively with preference given to women and under-represented/marginalized creators
  • Contemporary promotional items: We will only collect this type of material as part of other larger collections or that relate to specific individual’s archival collections.



Materials collected will be retained permanently.  In the rare instances where material is identified to be damaged beyond repair, deemed out of scope during processing, or reappraised in consideration of updates to the collection development strategy, the Ohio State University Libraries’ Deaccession Policy will be followed.


Exact duplicates discovered during processing are not accessioned into the collection and will be disposed of through one of the following ways:

  • Transfer to another institution
  • Sale or auction with the proceeds supporting collections care and acquisitions
  • Return to original donor if requested


Procedures for Revisiting and Revising This Policy:

This policy will be reviewed and updated on an annual basis by the Acquisitions Committee of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, with input from University Libraries leadership and our community and stakeholder advisors, including our Faculty Advisory Committee.

Should a unique acquisition opportunity present itself that is not covered by this policy, the Acquisitions Committee can conduct an ad hoc review.

[revised January 2023]