Vocal Majority Exhibit: Designed by students for educating


Matthew Brown

The Vocal Majority exhibit on display in Taylor Hall’s May 4 Visitors Center showcases the various anti-war protests across the US in 1969 leading up to the May 4th Shootings. The display first opened on Feb. 22, 2023 and will remain open until May 31, 2023.

Francesca Malinky, Reporter

Educating visitors and students on the anti-war movement in fall 1969 that lead up to the events on May 4, 1970 is the focus for the new exhibit on Kent State’s campus. 

During this time period, United States President Richard Nixon described protesters as a silent majority, meaning they were not active in the anti-war protest. College students across the nation decided they were going to embody the vocal majority which is the inspiration for the exhibit, said graduate student Skylar Wrisley. 

Signs like this one used by the Students for a Democratic Society in a Chicago anti-war protest, are on display in The Vocal Majority exhibit in Taylor Hall’s May 4 Visitors Center until May 31, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

Wrisley curated and wrote the exhibit based on the vocal majority coming to life. 

“I hope students can use this and realize that if you do want to have an effective movement, then it’s kind of like conducting a trial and error of what really works, and not becoming defeatist,” Wrisley said. “So take from history, but then also implement it for their own cause.”

When the temporary exhibit first opened, Wrisley gave a presentation of the artifacts, posters and research material to about 60 attendees, said Lori Boes, the assistant director of the May 4 Visitors Center. Students and visitors have been periodically visiting the exhibit, Wrisley and Boes said that the exhibit has been a success based on attendance.

Wrisley worked with Boes to help guide her research for the exhibit, and they agreed that this can be a valuable teaching lesson for students seeking advocacy today. 

“Howie Emmer started a committee to end the war. And he said, there were two of us that would show up at Oscar Ritchie with signs against the war,” Boes said. “And, eventually, they won people over and we became the majority. So I think the other thing is putting yourself out there thinking you’re the only one.”

Boes said that her favorite portion of the exhibit is the display of a black armband from the anti-war protests that students wore to show their support for the cause. This is her favorite element because as opposed to just having photos, there is an actual armband on display in the exhibit. 

The Vocal Majority Exhibit displays several buttons used to advertise anti-war protests in 1969. The exhibit will remain open in Taylor Hall until May 31, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

Jen Goubeaux, senior visual communication design major, was one of two students who designed the exhibit. She took on the role of creating a map of the exhibit to decide where artifacts and posters would be displayed. 

“A lot of the information Skylar found for us was newspapers that had images, or there were posters designed at the time,” Goubeaux said. “We kind of pulled from some of those aesthetics to kind of influence what we were doing.” 

Ariel Bradford, senior visual design communication major, worked with Goubeaux to create the exhibit. Bradford said it was a great experience to work with history and gain professional experience.

 “It taught us a lot about personal client relations like emails, scheduling meetings,” Bradford said. “It was a cool five months, but it was five months of work. So it was nice to see it all come to fruition.” 

The exhibit is open during May 4 Visitor Center hours, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit will close on May 31, 2023. 

Francesca Malinky is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].