August 29, 2011 Library of Congress Announces Agreement with Small Press Expo For Acquisition of Independent Comics and Cartoon Art

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Sara Duke (202) 707-3630; Warren Bernard, Small Press Expo (301) 652-6645

The Library of Congress today announced an agreement with Small Press Expo that will allow the Library to acquire independent comics and cartoon-art forms—material that it does not receive through copyright deposit.

The Small Press Expo (SPX) is an annual festival in Bethesda, Md., for alternative comic creators. The festival brings together more than 300 artists and publishers to meet their readers, booksellers, distributors and each other. SPX also hosts the annual Ignatz Awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in comics, cartooning and graphic novels.

“I am extremely excited about this partnership,” said Sara W. Duke, curator of popular and applied graphic art in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division. “Small Press Expo offers talented young newcomers, as well as established artists, the opportunity to showcase their limited-edition and small-run publications.

“The Library of Congress was collecting comic books and original cartoon art before most collectors took it seriously as an art form. The Small Press Expo Collection will enhance the Library’s existing holdings and allow future researchers to see the full spectrum of cartoon art that is available today.”

The Library’s comic-book collection, housed in the Serial and Government Publications Division, is the largest in the United States. It contains more than 120,000 pieces and grows by 200 issues every month, in large part due to copyright deposit. Many small presses and self-published creators, however, do not avail themselves of the opportunity to deposit copies of their publications at the Library.

During the past two decades, the content of comics has shifted away from superheroes and depictions of the fantastic toward the wide variety that is represented in text-based literature: history, travel, science, autobiography, social science, and fiction. While many areas of the publishing industry have experienced a decline, the artistic realm that uses cartoon art has exploded.

“By working with Small Press Expo, the Library will tap into this dynamic and creative expression in a more proactive way,” said Megan Halsband, a reference librarian in the Library’s Serial and Government Publications Division.

According to the agreement, the Library will receive the Ignatz Award nominees in the various print categories, as well as other selected comics and cartoon art. The Library also will receive SPX posters, banner ads and festival ephemera. In addition, selected websites—including the winner of the Ignatz Best Web Comic, sites that document the activities of SPX and those of recognized online comic creators—will be reviewed for the Library of Congress Web Archiving Collection, to allow collection of work that is only presented digitally.

Small Press Expo was founded in 1994, and the Ignatz Awards started in 1997.

“Small Press Expo is proud to be able to partner with the Library of Congress to establish this important collection. The opportunity to preserve and make available to researchers the great work being done in the independent comics field as part of the Library of Congress holdings is an honor for SPX and its community of creators,” said Warren Bernard, executive director of the Small Press Expo.

The Library of Congress has comics and cartoon collections in the Prints and Photographs Division, the Rare Book Division, and the general collections, in addition to the Serial and Government Publications Division. The Library has been collecting original cartoon art for more than 140 years.

The Library of Congress is a major center for cartoon research, with holdings of more than 128,000 original cartoon drawings and prints. These works, housed in the Prints and Photographs Division, span five centuries and range from 17th-century Dutch political prints to 21st-century contemporary comic strips. The division also holds the largest-known collection of American political prints, the finest assemblage of British satirical prints outside Great Britain and holdings of original drawings by generations of America’s best cartoonists and illustrators that are unequaled in breadth and depth.


PR 11-157
ISSN 0731-3527