Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Quarantining Coronavirus through Comics at MSU's Comic Art Collection

by Mike Rhode

Like many of us, Michigan State University librarian Randy Scott was sent to work from home when covid-19 began shutting down schools and libraries across the country. To be able to work from home, he had to get creative, since he couldn't take parts of the Comic Art Collection home with him. Scott began clipping comic strips from the Lansing, MI papers that dealt with coronavirus and setting up new subject headings in the collection's Reading Room Index (RRI).

When I checked in with him, and heard that he was doing this, I began sending the daily Washington Post comics pages (I'd been sending the Sundays for years, continuing what crack comics historian Ian Gordon had begun years ago). He's picked coronavirus as his main subject heading, noting "The first mention of the coronavirus (covid 19) pandemic appeared in this collection in the February 13, 2020 episode of Prickly City. Newspaper strips are added here when 5 examples of a title with pandemic-related content are located, clipped and filed in the Library's collection." As of today, he's collected about 600 strips, 400 of which are in the RRI, and 200 waiting to be added.

Strips he's collected include:

New and newly significant related topics include:  A typical entry for a Washington, DC-based cartoonist looks like this:

Social Distancing. 
   "Boo Cat Lives and Breathes Social Distancing" (Reply All
   Lite, Apr. 26, 2020) / by Donna A. Lewis. -- Call no.:
   oversize PN6726.S79 Apr. 26, 2020 

Special collections work over the long run and most of this collection probably won't be of interest to users for a few years, and then again after a few decades, most likely for the fiftieth anniversary of the pandemic. But just a cautionary note for those who think they can find everything on the web... this Chris Ware strip from the New York Times from April 26, 2020, has disappeared from the Times' website (and Randy would like a tearsheet if you have it).

Picture from Twitter


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