It’s not quite the library of Alexandria, but Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimorewas is closing after 12 years. It a handsome edifice of pop culture that displayed the pristine personal collection of Diamond founder Steve Geppi in a dark wood-paneled, climate controlled environment.
More than 3000 of the items from the museum will be donated to the Library of Congress in what’s being called the largest donation ever of comic books to the institution. The items will go on display at the LoC this summer, as the Geppi Museum closes on June 3rd.
The GEM had been struggling financially for a long time, so its closure comes as no surprise. It does close the door on yet another failed comic book museum, though, inclduing those previously opened by Mort Walker and Kevin Eastman. The Cartoon Art Museum in SF is still going strong though!
“I’ve been blessed to make my living from something I love for decades, and further blessed to be able to share these treasures with others. The idea of how many more people will get to see this material under the auspices of The Library of Congress invigorates my mind with a multitude of possibilities. I definitely have other plans for the future as well. Besides, it’s not like I’m going to stop collecting,” said Geppi in a statement.
I attended many an event at the GEM, usually during a Diamond Summit, and it was indeed a beautiful place, elegantly laid out with an astounding collection of comics, movie posters and toys that revealed the origins of our pop culture heritage. I never visited the room with all the Krazy Kat comics, but it was also a display of wealth and power on a comic book scale.
That Geppi has decided to donate this gem of a collection to the Library of Congress where everyone can enjoy it is laudable.
If you’re nearby and were thinking of visiting the museum, it closes this Sunday so hurry down!
More info in the PR below:
Diamond Comic Distributors President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen A. Geppi has made a multimillion dollar donation of more than 3,000 items from his personal comic book and pop culture collection to The Library of Congress.
Geppi’s gift encompasses comic books, photos, posters, original comic book and comic strip art, newspapers, pinback buttons, and other rare, vintage pop culture artifacts including the original Plane Crazy storyboards that document the creation of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse.
Items are expected to go on display at the Library of Congress beginning this summer. The move represents a huge next chapter in one of Geppi’s long-held dreams.
For more than a decade, the material has been on display at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (GEM) in Baltimore and includes Big Little Books, Beatles memorabilia, a collection of flicker rings popularizing comic book characters and political figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., R.F. Outcault’s The Yellow Kid printing blocks, and the No. 2 Brownie camera model F from Eastman Kodak Company.
With the acquisition of these items by the Library of Congress, GEM will close its doors in June. Its last day open to the public will be Sunday, June 3, 2018 from 10am to 6pm. Admission that day will be free of charge.
When Geppi’s Entertainment Museum opened in 2006, it was the natural next step in Geppi’s lifelong passion to share comic books and popular culture in general with the widest possible audience.
“I’ve been an evangelist for comics since I picked up my first issue of Batman at the age of five. Since then, I couldn’t help but share my excitement, first with my brother, then my family, and then my friends. I remember thinking ‘This stuff is great! I can’t wait to share it with so-and-so.’ After that, each step along the way has really preceded from those initial impulses,” Geppi said.
In GEM, Geppi achieved a previously unparalleled execution of his vision, but after more than a decade in its historic Camden Yards facility, it was apparent to him that to reach even more people with his message, he was going to need to go bigger. This led to a meeting with Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, who Geppi knew from her time heading up the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. From there, things moved relatively quickly.
“The Library of Congress is home to the nation’s largest collection of comic books, cartoon art and related ephemera and we celebrate this generous donation to the American people that greatly enhances our existing holdings,” said Hayden. “The appeal of comic books is universal, and we are thrilled that this new addition to the collections will make them even more accessible to people worldwide.”
The Library holds more than 140,000 issues of approximately 13,000 comic book titles, dating back to the 1930s. The collection includes many firsts and some of the most important comics in history, including the first comic book sold on newsstands, the first comics featuring Batman and other iconic characters, such as All Star Comics #8, the first appearance of Wonder Woman. The Library also holds a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, the origin and first appearance of Spider-Man, along with the original artwork that Steve Ditko created for the issue. According to The Library, The Geppi Collection expands and enriches this strong foundation and fills gaps in specific issues.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.