Archivists answer May 4 questions

Ryan Stainbrook

Oral history project holds 100th interview

Oral history project holds 100th interview

As the 40th anniversary of the tragic May 4 events approach, the 12th floor of the library has been busy with students and faculty digging through the archives, listening to personal experiences and finding pieces of history.

It’s something that happened here that received great national and international history,” said Stephen Paschen, university archivist, “and it is by far our most used collection.”

The May 4 Oral History Project, administrated by Special Collections and Archives, recently reached a milestone by completing the 100th interview in the collection in February 2010.

The Oral History Project is a series of recorded dialogue from former and current Kent State students and faculty.

“The Oral History Project is all about letting people tell their story,” Paschen said. “There’s something compelling about the way people tell stories and that can sometimes get lost in print.”

Craig Simpson, assistant professor for the library, was a major contributor to the Oral History Project and feels the collection is so popular because of how big it was to the community.

“It’s a power symbol of the generation gap at the time,” Simpson said. “Many interviewees (for the oral project) said that they thought Kent was the last place it would happen.”

The coverage of May 4 is by far the largest collection the university archives has, with nearly 300 boxes full of old newspaper articles and pictures leading up to, during and after the shootings.

“There’s rarely a day that goes by where someone doesn’t have a question about it,” Paschen said. “It’s the most used collection, which means people have questions.”

May 4 has become one of the things Kent State is known for.

“Most people never heard of Kent State before that day,” Paschen said.

When some students, like Jenna Austen, junior justice studies major, think about May 4, they think about compassion.

“It’s hard to believe it happened here,” Austen said. “It’s not just a day off of class. It’s a day to remember what happened here to those who were affected by it.”

Although it happened nearly 40 years ago, the shootings that occurred on May 4 continue to be written about and the collection continues to grow.

“It’s a very important part of the history here,” Paschen said. “We collect anything that is related to the shootings on May 4.”

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