ToonSeum – Embracing My Inner Child at Pittsburgh’s Cartoon Museum

Last Updated on March 6, 2018 by Jeremy

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Pittsburgh's ToonSeum closed in January 2018. They are now going to focus on pop-up events around town in the coming months. We hope they will find another permanent space in the future!

Little Nemo at the ToonSeum in PittsburghWhen I found out that Pittsburgh is home to a cartoon museum, I was overjoyed.  For those who are kids at heart, like I am, the thought of visiting a museum completely dedicated to cartoons is a very tempting prospect.

After you dig a little deeper and find out that there are only a handful of cartoon museums in the USA, knowing that we have one of them makes it even more special.

So I did what any self-respecting adult would do- I let my inner five year old come out, forced Angie along kicking and screaming (okay, she came willingly and was even excited for it), and made a trip to this lesser-visited attraction that I'd been wanting to see for a very long time.

Prepare Yourself, This Museum is Small

Artist Wall at the ToonSeum

The first thing visitors to the ToonSeum should know is that it is small.  Really small.  It no sense of the word can this museum be considered large like the others in the city.  In fact, the ToonSeum is just two small rooms located in the heart of downtown.

Two rooms that, if you take enough time to read every single piece that is featured, will likely only take you an hour to visit.

Artist Wall at the ToonSeum

Why am I pointing this out first thing?  Honestly, I feel like those who visit the ToonSeum and do not know this in advance will leave disappointed.  We knew this ahead of time so we didn't have a huge shock waiting for us, and I don't want to sugar coat anything by not being completely honest about it.

Now that we have that disclosure out the way, let's talk about the exhibits.

Visit the ToonSeum for the Rotating Exhibits

Calvin as Robin in a Rare Outtake Edition of Batman

The feature of the ToonSeum that makes it special is that it is home to constantly rotating exhibits and really has no permanent collection on display.  Although it may come as a bit of a shock to hear that, it is actually rather neat.  This means that while the few items they have on display permanently are really cool, like an artist's chair from Disney and internal designs from many major comic book franchises, they're not the highlight.

To truly get the best out of the ToonSeum, you have to do your research and decide to visit when the rotating exhibits align with your interests.  Don't like the collection display that is out?  All you have to do is wait a month or two before one of the exhibits switch over for another opportunity that may be to your liking.

Avengers Assemble!

Goofing Off at the Avengers' Exhibit at the ToonSeum

During our visit in June 2015 the two exhibits on display were Little Nemo, a modern recreation of the popular comic series from the early 1900s featuring a little boy's fanciful dreams, and a collection of original works from the Avengers.

Going into it I was convinced that I would enjoy the Avengers exhibit more. After all, it is the Avengers, and who doesn't love being able to dress up like Thor thanks to the super hero costume corner that was on display? (Hint: Not this guy.)  This was cool, but to be honest I knew exactly what to expect having grown up with the later editions of the same comics.

Little Nemo at the ToonSeum in PittsburghLittle Nemo at the ToonSeum in Pittsburgh

What shocked me, however, was the Little Nemo exhibit.  Here the exhibit was not displays of the original series.  Instead it was a selection of modern interpretations from popular artists of today.  Some stayed true to the series, others stretched the bounds, but each display had some balance between the Little Nemo concept and the artist's own style- thus making every panel compelling and worth checking out.

For a museum of this size (or rather lackthereof) hanging on just a few more moments to enjoy every piece of art is quite important, and for us the two rotating exhibits did just that.

Hulk Smash!

The ToonSeum closed their dedicated museum in January 2018 and now focuses on pop-ups.

For more things to do in downtown Pittsburgh, why not check out the downtown Pittsburgh art galleries, head over to Point State Park, or perhaps have a meal at tako or Proper Brick Oven!

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