Well, this is kinda a big deal. The Small Press Expo has announced they are collaborating with the lIbrary of Congress on a collection that will showcase the work of indie cartoonists. However, before you plow through your boxes of stuff to ship ’em off, only SPX guests and exhibitors can have their work considered for collection. Luckily, that covers an astonishing number of important creators.
In an interview at TCJ, SPX director Warren Bernard explains how it came about.
[I]t evolved first out of my noticing that the Prints and Photographs collection of original cartoon art stops in the last century, and they had very little independent comic art in the collection as a whole. I had also became friendly with Georgia Higley, who is the comic book and serials curator in the Serial and Government Publications Division. I was talking to her about SPX a few years ago, and she was telling me about how little of the kind of comics exhibited at SPX was in the Library’s collection. Between the two, it was clear that a hole in the Library of Congress collection could be fixed and the indie comics world could get some cultural cache at the same time. All that was needed was the right approach that could work for both organizations. After talking to Georgia and Sara many times about the Library’s collections and what they were looking for collections-wise, about a year ago I put together the proposal for the partnership between SPX and the Library of Congress, which both the Board of Directors of SPX and the Library of Congress accepted formally a few weeks ago.
Bernard goes on to explain that many many things that you might think are common things are actually already nearly impossible to find — like the original art to the SPX badges over the years or copies of Smoke SIgnal #1, Desert Islands’ comics newspaper. So the archival value is immense.
The Small Press Expo (SPX), the preeminent showcase for the exhibition of independent comics, graphic novels, and alternative political cartoons, is pleased to announce the establishment of the Small Press Expo Collection at The Library of Congress.
In a first of its kind relationship, SPX is creating with the Library of Congress an ongoing collection that will focus on the craft and diversity of the independent comics community. Only those who have attended SPX as guests or exhibitors can have their works considered for the collection.
The primary emphasis will be on those works that are not submitted as part of the Library of Congress copyright deposit program, allowing the Library of Congress to expand its collection in areas that would not be otherwise available to its collections staff. This will include self published mini-comics and comics, as well as the new wave of tabloid comic sections that have become popular in the last few years.
Every year, SPX will team with Library of Congress curators and collections staff to solicit selected exhibitors for works to be included in the collection. In addition, all Ignatz Award nominees in the various print categories will automatically become part of the collection, with the winner of the Ignatz Award for the Best Online Comic to be archived as part of the Library of Congress digital collections program. The collection will also include all posters, flyers, badges, and other artistic ephemera created for SPX by comic artists, as well as having the SPX web site digitally archived.
“The Library of Congress has been collecting comic books and original cartoon art before most collectors took it seriously as an art form. The Small Press Expo (SPX) Collection will enhance the Library’s existing holdings and allow future researchers to see the full spectrum of cartoon art that is available today,” said Sara W. Duke, curator of popular and applied graphic art in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division.
SPX is honored to work with the Library of Congress to preserve the cultural wealth of the Small Press Expo and its guests/exhibitors, and thereby enhancing the Library of Congress extensive comic book and original art collections.
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.