By: Dave Astor
The National Cartoon Museum is hoping for a tenfold increase in attendance after its move — slated for fall 2006 — into New York City’s Empire State Building.
“I’m expecting 700,000 visitors a year,” museum founder Mort Walker told E&P Online, adding that the highest annual attendance was 70,000 when the then-named International Museum of Cartoon Art operated in Boca Raton, Fla., between 1996 and 2002. Since then, the museum’s enormous $20 million collection of 200,000 originals has been in storage in various Stamford, Conn., locales.
Walker — who announced the museum’s planned move to Manhattan last month (E&P Online, Aug. 14) — gave several reasons why he expected the huge spike in visitors. Not only will the museum be in a midtown building in a huge city, but part of it will be on the ground floor of the iconic skyscraper. There, the “storefront” section of the museum will be visible to people on the street, those who work inside the 102-story building and tourists visiting the skyscraper’s observation deck.
The museum will also have space in two levels below the ground floor, offices on the 24th floor, and a separate Stamford facility for research, classes, storage, and other purposes, according to Walker. That Connecticut branch might open before fall 2006, added the “Beetle Bailey” creator, whose comic is distributed by King Features Syndicate to about 1,800 newspapers.
But there’s still the matter of raising about $7 million to re-open the museum. Some money has already been pledged — for instance, the Hearst Foundation (parent of King) has offered $1 million, said Walker — but more will be needed.
How did the museum end up with the Empire State Building as its future address? “Serendipidity,” replied Walker. He told E&P Online that he was on the Greenwich (Conn.) Country Club golf course a couple of years ago when a friend introduced him to Peter Malkin, co-owner of the Empire State Building and a “Beetle Bailey” fan who wanted to meet Walker.
The cartoonist — who created “Beetle Bailey” in 1950 — founded the museum in 1974. It was in Greenwich and then Rye Brook, N.Y., before moving to Boca Raton.