In my youth I wanted, more than anything else, to one day become a cartoonist. Alas, desire and passion fail to make a good substitute for ability and talent, and, lacking both, this dream never panned out. Instead of cartooning, I went to college to study my second love, history, and now my two passions have come together in one place: the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.
Despite my extensive knowledge of comic book artists and writers, I must admit I’d never heard of him. This, it turns out, is because his work appeared in the Columbus Dispatch, a newspaper with which I’m unfamiliar. Born in Chillicothe, Ohio, on January 8, 1880, Ireland, according to the plaque about him, “drew editorial cartoon and spot illustrations” as well as a current events page called “The Passing Show.” He worked for the paper from the late 1890s “until his death in 1935.” Neither the plaque nor museum website specifically state why the museum took Ireland’s name as its own, although I would imagine it has to do with his local fame and possibly his support of Ohio State University.
The building in which you will find the museum, Sullivant Hall, stands on a city thoroughfare, High Street, so you don’t have to worry about getting onto the Ohio State campus proper and navigating its roads. Although you will find the Ohio Union Garage—South just three buildings away at 1759 North High Street, on weekdays you can’t park there without a permit until after 4:00 p.m. Because my traveling companions and I visited on a Saturday and during Ohio State’s Christmas vacation, this didn’t present us with a problem.
To get to the museum, visitors must use one of Sullivant Hall’s side entrances. Upon passing through its doors, they will see a large lobby with the Billy Ireland Library to the left and stairs ahead. Take these or the elevator up the second level to reach the museum itself. This, although not exceptionally large, has four rooms, three of which constitute the galleries. The museum has the quality and look of any top one in the nation, and enough art in its modest area to keep you occupied for a good hour and maybe two or three if you want to read every display. The day we visited visitors packed it, slowing our progress a bit. For those planning to go, I suggest you do so during one of Ohio State’s breaks so you can avoid the heavy pedestrian and auto traffic generated by the student body and faculty. Or, if you can only schedule a visit during a school session, try to avoid picking a day when a sporting event takes place.
Although organized by topic rather than chronologically, the museum nonetheless covers the full scope of comic strip and book