Among the many useful electronic databases and digital archival collections at the UNT Libraries are our Adam Matthew databases, some of which were only recently acquired. These databases are accessible online to UNT faculty, staff and students, using your EUID and password, or from a computer station inside the library. They provide access to thousands of historic documents and primary resources for scholarship and teaching. Among these resources are images from newspapers, serial publications, pamphlets, broadsides, and other documents that often include historic cartoons, comic strips, and even some early comic books related to the subjects covered by these databases, including African American history, gender & identity, children’s literature, Victorian literature, and more.
Our Adam Matthew representative has created a handy guide to locating historic comics and cartoons in those databases that contain image collections. The guide explains the subject focus of each database, its historical scope and range of materials, and the sources of the original archival collections included in each database. It also provides links to both the general database landing page and the results page for searches of “cartoons”, “comics,” or other relevant terms.
While some of these historic cartoons may not resemble the modern newspaper comic strips or comic books that most of us are familiar with, they represent earlier forms of graphic narrative and comic art that were often used to address socially relevant topics of the time, including race and gender relations, political issues, economics, religion, social values, philosophical debates, children’s education, fashion, and popular culture.
Because of the historical nature and context of these comics, it’s important to note that some may contain racist, sexist, xenophobic, or otherwise offensive images and language. Researching or using them in the classroom requires a critical eye, some background knowledge of the contexts, and a willingness to confront these difficult issues and themes. But they also provide valuable insights into the popular imagination and the social values and attitudes of their time, as well as the particular vision and ideas of the artists themselves.
In addition to the Adam Matthew databases, we have a number of other resources in the library that can help with comics research and teaching. See another recent blog post on “Researching Comics at UNT Librares” and our Comics Studies Guide for more information on comics and comics studies resources. And feel free to share your suggestions or questions in the comments below.