Making use of the May 4 Collection
Kent State University Libraries has been curating materials related to the May 4, 1970 shootings and their aftermath for 50 years. The May 4 Collection spans more than 300 cubic feet of primary and secondary source materials—including thousands of documents, photographs, memorabilia, artifacts, artwork and audio and video recordings—all of which are open to the public. Kent State’s archivists and librarians have in-depth expertise in assisting researchers, filmmakers, students and others to access archival resources associated with May 4.
Much of the collection also is available through free, online access. More than 50,000 items in the collection have been converted to digital format, including hundreds of photographs, recordings and more than 125 oral history interviews.
“Our online May 4 Collection is used by researchers the world over,” says Cara Gilgenbach, associate professor and head of Special Collections and Archives at Kent State University Libraries. “Because it is such a valuable resource, we are always working to increase our digital offerings in this collection.”
An Ohio Archives Grant allowed for more than 100 reel-to-reel audio recordings pertaining to May 4, 1970 to be digitized beginning in spring 2015. A grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission launched a project to digitize some of the most used portions of the extensive May 4 Collection between 2016 and 2018.
The two-year grant project resulted in the digitization of 39 collections that reflect student, faculty, administrative, local, national and international reactions to the Kent State Shootings. Items in the collections marked with an “online” icon allow for easy access to digital content.
Another grant in 2019 from the Council on Libraries and Information Resources provided more than $30,000 for the digitizing work to continue through its “Recordings at Risk” program. The program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, supports the preservation of rare and unique audio and audiovisual content of scholarly value.
Although Special Collections and Archives houses thousands of collections, the May 4 Collection is one of its most heavily used archives. It’s been accessed by an international community of users not affiliated with Kent State, such as filmmakers, media professionals and others. This past year it was used extensively by university faculty, staff and students who developed dozens of programs and presentations as part of the 50th anniversary commemoration year. —Lisa Abraham
For links to the May 4 Collection, including the Kent State Shootings: May 4 Digital Archive and the Kent State Shootings: Oral History Project, see the May 4 Collection homepage.