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More than 72,000 items in Kent State University Libraries’ May 4, 1970 collection will be digitally captured with the funding assistance of a $119,443 matching grant, provided by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC). The digitization of these documents will allow users to explore these events and the context surrounding them through free, online access.
The two-year project, coordinated by Cara Gilgenbach, head of Special Collections and Archives, and Virginia Dressler, digital projects librarian, aims to digitally scan original materials from a variety of collections that are part of University Libraries’ May 4 archive to present a range of reactions to the events of May 1-4, 1970, which left four students dead and nine students wounded by Ohio Army National Guard troops. Included in the project are faculty collections containing correspondence received from students whose coursework was cut short by the shootings; Kent State administrative records and community reactions, such as those represented in the papers of LeRoy Satrom, mayor of the City of Kent in May 1970; reactions from college students across the country and around the world; and artistic responses to this pivotal moment in United States’ history.
James Bracken, Ph.D., dean of Kent State University Libraries, noted that the “NHPRC-funded digitization enables University Libraries to make a significant portion of its distinctive May 4th collection accessible to the world via the Internet. Now both advanced scholars working on books and articles, as well as elementary school students working on Ohio History Day projects will have greater opportunities to work with important primary resources in the Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives.”
The University Libraries’ project has received written support from Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D., noted scholar of the Black Campus Movement and author of the acclaimed book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. “The May 4 collection remains a vital source for Americans interested in learning about, teaching or studying the 1970s, higher education, student unrest and antiwar activism,” says Kendi. “I’m sure that members of the media, professional researchers and casual learners would utilize and benefit from a digitized May 4 collection, especially in the coming years as the 50th anniversary of the shootings brings more media attention and research interest.”
The University Libraries’ May 4 Collection, comprised of more than 300 cubic feet of primary sources, is used by researchers at nearly all educational levels, from junior high students working on National History Day projects, to high school and college students learning about American history, to advanced scholars writing books or creating major documentary films on this subject. As the 50th anniversary of the shootings approaches and interest in these materials continues to grow, this project will provide web access for the next generation of scholars, artists and citizens to learn from one of our country’s most tragic moments, regardless of their location or ability to visit the archives in person. Kent State University Libraries feel the timing is critical to create digital copies of these materials to meet users’ expectations and provide instant, worldwide access to this archive.