Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art. (I think that's the full official title.)
I mean, really. Just... wow.
I visited the Museum almost exactly one year ago in their old facility, and I was summarily impressed. And I've been following their postings and pictures as the new facility has been taking shape, so I had to stop a moment and smile on my way in initially as I saw "Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum" carved in stone on the face of their new home. This has been a long time in coming, and comics research just leveled up. Multiple times. From what little I've really seen of the place so far (basically, just the lobby and the auditorium) it's super impressive. I can't wait until the tours to see the full breadth of the place!
The first two days here, though, are focused on academic presentations. Papers and lectures from people doing academic work on comics. Subjects ranged from the Yellow Kid and the Armory Show of 1913 to Walt Kelly and Charles Schulz to Ariel Schrag and Alison Bechdel. I don't know that I can summarize all the presentations here; some were better presented than others, but they were all deeply fascinating, well-researched and very enlightening. I was exposed to a number of comics creators and works I had never heard of before, and a number of conceptual ideas that presented old works in startlingly new contexts. My head is swimming with ideas right now, and it's frankly hard to process everything that was presented by the sheer volume of great work shown.
And tomorrow promises another day of the same!
You know, I've gone to comic conventions put on by the likes of Wizard and ReedPop, and those are fun and all, but I always find that, despite multiple tracks of programming, there simply isn't that much that leaps out at me. And, frequently, what I do find is a bit hit-or-miss. But let me tell you that today, I sat in pretty much the same spot for from 9:00 AM until 6:00 PM, and was at rapt attention the whole time. I would love to attend more conferences like this.
The other cool thing about today was who was in attendance. Because of the type of conference this is, and how it's attached to the new facility opening, it's drawing a crowd of people interested in comics research. Naturally, the folks from the Billy Ireland Museum itself (Lucy Caswell, Jenny Robb, Caitlin McGurk and others) but off the top of my head, I saw R.C. Harvey and Charles Hatfield; I chatted with Henry Jenkins and Tom Spurgeon; I had lunch with Dan Fingeroth and Kirk Taylor (whose above photo of the event I liberally swiped from his FB page). Setting aside the academic folks presenting their research, there was just a LOT of note-worthy comics thinkers in attendance.
That comics is at this level where so many people are giving such fantastic consideration comics, in all its myriad forms and in as many different sub-niches as there are being researched, is just amazing. And that the Billy Ireland Museum can and does host these types of events, and that they are doing such a brilliant job of it, and that they have an incredible research facility to help in all that research...?
Wow. Just... wow.
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