Curator’s Picks: Exposing Cartoon Art

The collections of the Library of Congress are vast and varied. And, what better way to get to know them but through our many wonderful curators. In this edition of “Curator’s Picks,” Sara Duke, curator of popular and applied graphic art in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division, and reference librarian Megan Halsband of the Library’s Serial and Government Publications Division, note some of their favorite items in the Library’s Small Press Expo Collection.

“Le Sketch #9”
Le Sketch is a free mini-comic series with each issue devoted to a selection of sketches from a single contemporary cartoonist or illustrator. “Mini-comics are a wonderful example of just one of the formats artists are using to publish their comics. They are often self-published, have very limited print runs, are informally distributed— often for free—and therefore not regularly collected by libraries,” said Halsband.

2011 SPX Festival tote bag
“SPX President Warren Bernard told us that original drawings by Jim Woodring such as this one on a tote bag, are rare because he has not given away or sold many,” said Duke.

“Tugboat Press has donated a complete set of “papercutter” to the SPX Collection,” said Halsband. “This comic book anthology, which features young and emerging comic book artists, has been the recipient of numerous Ignatz awards since its debut in 2006.”

Matt Bors
Matt Bors won the 2012 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning. “Unlike the previous generation of cartoonists, Bors utilizes the Internet to reach his audience yet continues to work in traditional pen-and- ink media,” said Duke.

Keith Knight produces three cartoons each week: The Knight Life, The K Chronicles and (Th)ink. “This cartoon from (Th)ink reflects on the life of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells have been used for decades of scientific research,” said Duke.

About SPX
Founded in 1994, the Small Press Expo (SPX) is an annual festival in Bethesda, Md., for alterna- tive comic creators. SPX hosts the annual Ignatz Awards, which recognize outstanding achieve- ment in comics, cartooning and graphic novels.

Through an agreement reached with SPX in 2011, the Library can acquire independent comics and cartoon-art forms not received through copyright deposit.


Prints and Photographs Division Reading Room
Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room

These items are also spotlighted in the November-December 2012 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, now available for download here. You can also view the archives of the Library’s former publication from 1993 to 2011.


  1. Jennifer Hall
    December 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    How do you determine which small print run independent comics you collect?

  2. Erin Allen
    December 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Thanks Jennifer. Several Library staff members attend SPX and collect based on a variety of factors. For one, they look at nominees for the Ignatz Award (a prize for creativity in such categories as outstanding artist, outstanding anthology or collection, outstanding graphic novel, outstanding story, promising artist, outstanding series, outstanding comic, oustanding mini-comic, and outstanding online comic) and works created by past and present winners of the Ignatz Award. They also selectively acquire high-quality works by creators who might otherwise be underrepresented in both the field and in our collections: minorities, women, GLBT, foreign, religious viewpoints other than Christianity, etc. Our curators also look for interesting use of the media. Finally, Warren Bernard, current president of SPX, acquires works he thinks ought to be preserved at the Library of Congress.
    The Library acquires a fraction of the works available for sale each year at SPX. Our ultimate goal is to fill a gap in our collections and present to researchers a representation of the explosion in the field of mini-comics. Other institutions are starting to collect mini-comics for research, but thanks to SPX we took the lead on making them available to researchers.

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