Smithsonian to Bring American History to Life in Graphic Books

The Smithsonian Institution is teaming up with IDW Publishing on a series of educational graphic books that will start to be released this fall.

One series will include books for middle-school readers inspired by “Time Trials,” a set of videos from the National Museum of American History that introduces figures from the past, like the traitor Benedict Arnold and the abolitionist John Brown, and encourages the audience to discuss their actions. Other series will draw upon the cultural and scientific knowledge of the Smithsonian, the behemoth of an educational and research complex that includes the National Zoo and 19 museums.

The focus on major events and people, which is familiar and critically acclaimed territory for IDW, is a key part of this initiative. The company published the trilogy “March,” a personal account of the civil rights movement by the United States Representative John Lewis (with Andrew Aydin), as well as “They Called Us Enemy,” a graphic memoir by George Takei, (written with Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott), about his family’s time in government internment camps during World War II.

“The most energizing thing about working with the Smithsonian’s curators, researchers and zookeepers is that these are not just experts in their fields: They’re storytellers,” Chris Ryall, IDW’s president, publisher and chief creative officer, said in a statement. “Together, we’ll use the unique power of comics to entertain, inspire and educate readers of all ages about the wonders of history, science, technology, culture and more.”

The line will also include coloring books for all ages and picture books for young readers. This is not the first time the Smithsonian has been involved with graphic novels. The “Secret Smithsonian Adventures Series,” which was published in 2016 and 2017, was about four time-traveling classmates protecting history.

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