The current incarnation of The British Cartoon Archive’s site is a recent relaunch equipped with better functionality including the ability to zoom in on images. The archive is a part of the University of Kent’s Templeman Library and is a registered museum devoted to displaying the history of British cartooning over the last two hundred years. In includes over 130,000 original editorial, socio-political, and pocket cartoons as well as comic strips, newspaper cuttings, books and magazines. Some of these materials date as far back as 1904.
The objectives of the British Cartoon Archive are to conserve and catalogue cartoons, encourage research, plan and promote exhibitions of cartoon originals, and to service teaching. The audience is considered to be researchers, authors, teachers, the media and students.
The search function allows you to search the archive’s catalogue. There is no list of keywords provided or any sign of a browsing option besides the handful of “recently added records” which appear just below the search bar. An advanced search allows the user to input specific dates along with their text search. After searching “librarian,” two pages of results appeared including options to narrow the search by a list of provided artists and publishers. Beneath each thumbnail the title of the cartoon, its artist, where it was published, and the date of publication are listed. Selecting a cartoon yields an image with little metadata. A list of related terms occur under the heading thesaurus and the series title is displayed. Other than that there is only the reference number, the text of the cartoon’s caption, and whatever text is embedded within the cartoon itself. Clicking on “biography” leads you to a page describing the artist. There are also links on the side of the image to see more from the publication, more by the artist, to suggest an edit, and find more artwork from the same day. The touted “zoom” feature mentioned on the front page is an option but it does not load on my computer after repeated attempts.
This site, though clearly a work in progress, would benefit from adding more metadata to its images to give context to the cartoons. The artwork is engaging and interesting just as you’d expect such cartoons to be but they’d be far more useful if the information to which they were reacting was provided. They might also consider adding a function that allows users to browse by collection since currently the collections are listed on a separate page but there are no links to them. Also, the zoom feature does not work and needs to be fixed.