Not many people know as much about cartoons as Larry Bush does.
“Any who have been tempted to research as I have are usually hindered by having to make a living,” he said.
Now his analysis of a special collection at the University of South Florida is on display at the Tampa Museum of Art.
Bush of Lutz said he got involved in the exhibit “rather serendipitously.”
The cartoon historian decided to pursue a master’s degree in American Studies a few years ago.
“I had read so many books of print cartoons, and I had studied the lives of some of the masters that I decided I need to learn how to better research and write about what I was learning,” Bush said.
While in his first semester at USF, a friend told Bush about the university library’s Special Collections. When he went to check it out, the library had just received a donation of original cartoons from Dr. Charles Mahan, he said.
“They warned me, however, that no one at the library knew what the cartoons were about. I was understandably fascinated by the cartoons, so the next two semesters I did internships in which I worked independently doing the historical and cultural analyses of the pieces,” Bush said.
“Researching political humor is, at least for me, the most entertaining way to study history. Not only do I find out about the events, I realize the passions surrounding the events.”
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That was in 2010. This year, he was contacted to do further cultural and historical analyses on those works plus additional pieces for the Tampa Museum of Art exhibit.
“That was like a dream come true,” he said.
The exhibit, which opened last weekend, includes 59 editorial cartoons by a variety of artists dating as far back as 1871. Fifteen of the artists represented at the exhibit are Pulitzer Prize winners, Bush said.
“Everyone who visits the exhibit will get something different from it depending on their own knowledge and understanding of history,” Bush said.
Each piece features an abridged version of Bush’s analysis on display, however, for anyone interested in the complete analysis, a folder at the front of the gallery contains the full version, he said.
And when the exhibit is over, Special Collections plans to put all of the images online along with Bush’s complete analyses to aid further historical research, Bush said.
Want to check it out?
The exhibit’s grand opening begins with a reception at 5:45 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9 at the Tampa Museum of Art, 120 Gasparilla Plaza.
A panel discussion with cartoonists Ed Hall and Doug MacGregor will run from 6:30 to 7 p.m., and from 7 to 8 p.m. guests will be invited into the gallery where they can enjoy the works and talk to the cartoonists and Bush.
Can’t make the grand opening? The exhibit will run through Sept 16. Admission is $10 per person; On Fridays after 4 p.m., admission is free. The museum is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Friday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and Sat and Sun from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.