2024 Lucy Shelton Caswell Research Award

This award of up to $2500 supports a researcher who needs to travel to Columbus, OH to use the collections of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. The award may be used to defray travel expenses, living expenses in Columbus, or research costs.

The award is open to non-OSU graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars (including scholars with or without advanced degrees or without institutional affiliations) who are at least 18 years old and live more than 60 miles from the Ohio State University’s main campus. Both foreign and domestic applicants are invited to apply.

Applications will be evaluated based on the originality and significance of the research topic, the potential of the project to contribute to new scholarship or creative works, the relevance of the collection materials to the project, and evidence of the need to use the materials on-site. We encourage applicants from all disciplines who are using cartoons or comics in their research projects. Our holdings of books, serials, original art, and archival collections can be searched at our website.


Will Eisner and Lucy Shelton Caswell

Will Eisner and Lucy Shelton Caswell

This award was made possible by a generous gift from the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation, which was matched by many additional donors to create the Lucy Shelton Caswell Research Award Endowment. Will Eisner was a major cartoonist, writer, educator and entrepreneur. He was one of the earliest cartoonists to work in the American comic book industry, and his series, The Spirit (1940–1952), was noted for its experiments in content and form. In 1978, he popularized the term “graphic novel” with the publication of his book A Contract With God. He was an early contributor to formal comics studies with his book Comics and Sequential Art (1985). The Eisner Family Foundation continues his support of the cartoon arts. The Will Eisner Seminar Room in the BICLM was named in honor of the late cartoonist.

The award is named for the founding curator of the BICLM, Professor Emerita Lucy Shelton Caswell. Prior to her retirement, her scholarly work and teaching focused on the history of newspaper comic strips and the history of American editorial cartoons. She has curated more than seventy-five cartoon-related exhibits and is the author of several articles and books, the most recent being the revised edition of Billy Ireland. Caswell is co-editor of The Ohio State University Press Studies in Cartoons and Comics series. She also serves as the vice president of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, the annual citywide celebration of cartoon art.

Submit the following application materials to cartoons@osu.edu :

  • A statement not to exceed two pages describing your research project, the relevance of the collections of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum to that project, the amount of time you think you need to complete your research at the BICLM, and the expected outcome of the research.
  • A summary curriculum vitae/resume not to exceed three pages including name, title, education, and contact information;
  • One letter of recommendation. The letter may be sent separately from the other materials, but applicants need to include the name, e-mail address and relationship of the person writing the letter for the applicant.

Deadline for applications is November 30, 2023.

To be considered, all applications must be received by the stated deadline.

A committee appointed by the Curator will review the applications and select the award recipient. One award will be given in this round. Decisions will be emailed to applicants by February 9, 2024.  Queries about applications in process cannot be acknowledged. The award recipient and their research project will be recognized in Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and University Libraries’ publicity.

Recipient will share their work with the university community through an open presentation, blog post, or other appropriate means.

Products of research will give credit to the individual special collection and a copy of any publication resulting from or informed by research will be submitted to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.


  • November 30, 2023: Deadline for all applications; must be received or postmarked by this date
  • February 9, 2024: Decisions will be emailed to applicants
  • February 28, 2024: Recipient must complete paperwork that will enable payment
  • July 1, 2024: Recipient may begin making research visits
  • June 30, 2025: Recipients must complete their onsite research visits and knowledge sharing with the university by this date
  • July 31, 2025: Deadline to submit a brief statement or report describing research visits and summarizing results of research visit

Email cartoons@osu.edu