Exhibit Showcases May 4 Artifacts in Augmented Reality

Artifacts of May 4, 1970 – a survivor’s jacket, a gas mask and gun shell casing – tell a story that’s not often accessible to the general public.

Kent State University Assistant Professor Abe Avnisan and students in his digital sciences capstone course brought these artifacts’ stories to life via the exhibit “May 4: Through the Looking Glass.” Throughout the Fall 2019 semester, students used photogrammetry – a technique that involves taking a number of overlapping photos and using a software to create three-dimensional images showing the object’s depth – to recreate digital displays of 10 artifacts of May 4, 1970.

The exhibit, when staged in the MuseLab (Room 321 of the University Library), ran from Dec. 3-6, 2019, and can now be found online at the Through the Looking Glass page.

The MuseLab is a creative and collaborative space for thinking, doing and learning about museal things, part of the museum studies pathway in the School of Information. There, viewers were able to examine these artifacts in augmented reality, in a manner that Avnisan hoped would capture the same “emotion and wonderment” he felt when examining them in person.

“When I went to the special collections and looked at these things, and touched them, it was a really interesting experience,” Avnisan said. “It made the events much more real, and opened up this space for thinking and feeling around May 4 in a way I hadn’t experienced before.”

Avnisan, who joined Kent State as an assistant professor in the School of Emerging Media and Technology as well as the School of  Media and Journalism in 2019, is a new media artist who has used emerging technology to create interactive and augmented reality-based exhibits for art galleries and museums around the world. He has valued this opportunity to create an art experience as part of the university’s 50th commemoration of May 4, 1970.

“It was a good fit,” he said. “I wanted to give the students an opportunity to work on something that would have a lot of visibility within the community – something that went beyond the limited audience of their peers in class.” 

The 10 objects that are on virtual display include items from the May 4 Visitors Center, University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives, the Ohio History Connection and survivor Alan Canfora’s private collection.