Library and Archives Assignment: Reading & Contextualizing Political Cartoons

Briscoe Archivist: Margaret Schlankey,
UT Librarian: Elise Nacca,

The assignment consists of two blogs post that build upon and reference one another.  All the skills you develop for the first blog post will be used in the second blog post.

Part 1
Using historical political cartoons authored by John Knott of the Dallas Morning News, select, read, and contextualize a cartoon using UT Libraries resources. During your visit to the Briscoe Center, you will view a variety of cartoons in the John Knott Scrapbook collection, learn about Archives and the collections at the Briscoe Center, learn how to visually read and analyze a political cartoon and choose your cartoon. The Briscoe Center has digitized in high resolution a selection of cartoons which will be stored in a safe and accessible online folder by the UT Libraries. Using Libraries resources, students will then conduct research related to their cartoon and address issues of context, bias, and citation in order to write up a blog post describing their research process.

Part 2
The second blog posts asks you to find a contemporary political cartoon that addresses a theme you discuss in your John Knott political cartoon and find background and scholarly information to place your cartoon in context.   Your second blog post will integrate the visual literacy, media literacy, and research skills you learned from the first blog post and should compare and contrast how depictions of your topic have evolved.

This assignment asks you to:

  • Find the original news article that accompanied your selected political cartoon.
  • Read about the context of the political cartoon using background information.
  • Summarize the topic and humor being depicted in the cartoon.

To prepare you for this research, you will come to the Libraries for a research session about how to put your political cartoon in context. This research instruction session will help you:

  • Visually “read” your selected cartoon to come up with keywords that describe the content, by creating metadata and brainstorming keywords.
  • Find background information using key terms to contextualize the content depicted in the cartoon
  • Create a research strategy to search library resources (library databases, books) and select appropriate and relevant library resources

Each blog post should contain:

  1. Image of the scanned political cartoon
  2. Key terms (or tags) that describe or are depicted in the cartoon. This could include:
    • Important people, place or things
    • Acts, Bills, laws
    • Concepts or controversial ideas
  3. Description of the cartoon, which should include:
    • Brief summary of the topic that the cartoon is depicting, which can be found by locating the original news article or paper that accompanied the cartoon, as well as supporting materials that talk about the topic in greater context, from an encyclopedia article, book, etc.
    • Brief explanation of the humor in the piece
  4. Citations in MLA style for all materials (cartoon, newspaper article, background info, books, articles)

After you have completed this assignment, you will:

  • Understand the structure, organization, and importance of an archive in order to make use of university archives for primary resource research
  • Know how to construct and execute a research plan based on your reading of the cartoon in order to find materials to support your conclusions
  • Synthesize and cite the resources in order to write and publish a blog post with the Dolph Briscoe Center

 Resources that will be covered in further detail during the Library session:


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