Special Collections and Archives exhibit displays new perspective on May 4


The Kent State Library Special Collections and Archives currently are exhibiting a collection of media coverage from May 4 and the aftermath of the campus shootings in 1970.

Olivia Young

In honor of the 45th anniversary of the May 4, 1970, shooting at Kent State, the Department of Special Collections and Archives has opened a new exhibit on the 12th floor of the University Library that will run until June 12, 2015.

The exhibit displays a chronological perspective highlighting some of the major newspaper headlines, magazines, photographs, newsletters, posters, flyers and comic strips showcasing the events of May 4, 1970, when members of the National Guard fired into a group of students, killing four and wounding nine, during a protest of the Vietnam War.

“It’s mostly focusing not so much on just telling the story of what happened for each of these events, but really how they were portrayed through the media, including mainstream media but also underground publication,” said Cara Gilgenbach, the head of Kent State’s Special Collections and Archives.

University Archivist Lae’l Hughes-Watkins curated “The Kent State Shootings and Their Aftermath: Through the Media’s Lens” exhibit this past summer, along with Liz Campion, a graduate student of the School of Library and Information Science.

As a curator, Campion said they looked for something people have not seen before.

“People are used to seeing the same image, the Mary Ann Vecchio one, so I think this exhibit, especially because a lot of the pictures have never been seen, is a really good reflection,” Campion said.

Hughes-Watkins said members of the Kent State community, including faculty members, people who live in Kent, and alumni donated the majority of the May 4 collection.

Gilgenbach said archives are donated on a continual basis, and exhibits are planned three to five years in advance.

“We think about two major things: What parts of the collection really haven’t been exhibited very much and things we’re seeing in the curriculum or interests from researchers that we feel like we want to tap into,” Gilgenbach said.

Gilgenbach hopes this exhibit will inspire current students to think about how reporting has evolved since these events.

“The world of communication was just super different and print journalism was important during that period,” Gilgenbach said. “It was the main media.” 

The library’s archives can be researched in-house only because they are primary sources. Most are one-of-a-kind items. Gilgenbach said the goal of the exhibits, other than providing entertainment, is tied to its mission to make people aware of the collections available, which can be used for research.

For more information on Kent State’s Special Collections and Archives, click here

Contact Olivia Young at [email protected].