The first day of 80 Years and Beyond: A Virtual Symposium on Canadian Comics closed with a panel of five participants on the role of GLAMs—that is, galleries, libraries, archives, and museums—in preserving Canadian comics. I moderated the panel, which included five other panelists who brought a variety of perspectives on comics and GLAMs to the discussion.
We were fortunate to have with us two comics creators, Joe Ollmann and Mark Shainblum, who also have experience in the GLAM sector. Ollmann is the award-winning cartoonist behind books such as Mid-Life (2011) and Fictional Father (2021, nominated for the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction) who also co-curated the exhibition This Is Serious: Canadian Indie Comics for the Art Gallery of Hamilton in 2019. Shainblum, who was inducted into the Canadian Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2016, is the creator of the Canadian superhero Northguard and has been involved in the comics scene for decades. He spoke not only from the perspective of a creator who has placed his work in an archive, but also as a GLAM practitioner: Shainblum is embarking on a new career as a library technician.
The other participants were library and archives professionals from Canadian universities. Rick Stapleton, head of Archives and Research Collections at McMaster University, represents an institution that has very strong archival holdings related to Canadian literature and publishing and that is currently seeking to expand its collecting mandate into the comics arena. Deborah Meert-Williston is the special collections librarian at Western University, which is the home of one of the largest library collections of published comics in Canada, the Dr. Eddy Smet Comic Book Collection. Her perspective is that of a librarian who doesn’t have a background in comics but who sees the value of the collection under her care and wants to develop the expertise necessary to bring it forward.
Finally, Lucia Cedeira Serantes is an assistant professor at Western University in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies who has also worked as a librarian. Comics reading practices, particularly among young adults, are her primary research interest. She is the author of Young People, Comics and Reading: Exploring a Complex Reading Experience (2019) and teaches a course on Exploring and Understanding Comics in Libraries at Western.
The panel discussion touched on topics such as the sometimes precarious state of original artworks and other archival materials stored in creators’ homes, the difficulty of providing adequate descriptions for published comics in library catalogues, and the lack of dedicated resources within GLAMs for acquiring, preserving, and amplifying comics-related holdings. The panel was recorded and is available to view on the Society for the Promotion of Canadian Comics’ YouTube channel.
Contributions to this forum reflect and expand on the panel discussion, with perspectives from two of the participants (Lucia Cedeira Serantes and me) as well as from two other voices. We hear the donor’s perspective from Eddy Smet, the prolific collector whose comics form the backbone of the extensive collection at Western University. Rotem Diamant, the librarian and artist who founded the non-profit Canada Comics Open Library (CCOL) and the Canadian Cartoonists Database, offers a comic expressive of the hope behind the CCOL project—a hope for a wide-open future that I’m sure all lovers of Canadian comics share.
Meaghan Scanlon is a Special Collections Librarian at Library and Archives Canada.
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