Be Comics Lab

Comics Legacy: from a new historical object towards contemporary creation

Although comics are recognised as national heritage, the history of the medium remains largely unknown. Comics suffer from a common misunderstanding that affects popular culture. Their omnipresence in everyday life, their perception as a mass media product let us underestimate the needs of their preservation. If comics represent an important sector of our book industry and a key element of Belgian cultural identity, they still suffer from a lack of legitimacy. So, its corpus is underestimated, mostly invisible in KBR collections, and urgently requires identification, conservation, and accessibility strategies. These are fundamental to their scientific study and promotion to the public. They are also the first step towards the construction of a heritage of the future from both contemporary paper and digital works. The study of comics heritage per se has now reached a momentum and can benefit from, be built on, but above all enrich the existing KBR’s scientific and digital ecosystem.

The overall goal of BCL therefore is to:

  • develop the identification of a hidden heritage: The use of recent research tools will expand the comics corpora to a wider range of practices positioned at the margins of (or discarded from) what has been established as a field. It will redefine the theoretical contours to study the object in all its diversity from an interdisciplinary perspective. The identification of works will be facilitated by using digital humanities tools. In parallel with the study of mass production, the focus on ‘alternative’ corpora will spotlight circulation networks and distribution channels in-/outside the main cultural industries, building a new vision and therefore a new history of the medium ;
  • catalogue and preserve: BCL will develop appropriate tools for digitisation and dissemination of graphic works. Mapping out the collections from the 1840s press to contemporary digital comics, the investigation will break down the silos between collections, ensuring the preservation and availability of the works ;
  • map a national heritage, develop scientific research: BCL will contribute to the mapping of a heritage scattered throughout Belgium and abroad, and develop awaited tools to promote a coherent acquisition and conservation policy (databases, online open data dictionary of Belgian creators,…). The mandate holder will set up an ‘innovation hub’ of comics actors, field’s experts and KBR librarians ensuring an expansion of KBR’s collections, avoiding heritage drain, preserving archive materials and stimulating fundraising to develop related research prospects. The aim is to safeguard the diversity of a field of creation of great symbolic and economic value, where the public service mission is being increasingly challenged by private initiatives ;
  • bring heritage to life: by connecting, through the valorisation of KBR’s collections, the networks of Belgian and international scientific and teaching institutions, BCL will ensure that KBR becomes an effective knowledge centre in line with its Action Plan. New synergies will be created (on-/offline curation, exhibitions, popularisation policy) to meet the key role of the library in terms of heritage conservation and scientific dissemination.

Project lead

Erwin Dejasse, KBR & Université libre de Bruxelles  – rejva.qrwnffr@xoe.or


The Be Comics project is financed by the Belgian Science Policy Office as part of the FED-tWIN programme, and is based on a long-term cooperation between KBR and the ULB

Follow-up committee

  • Fabrice Preyat, ULB
  • Sophie Vandepontseele, KBR