Special Collections and Archives

Collection on Abraham and Isaac sculpture

Special Collections and Archives

Collection on Abraham and Isaac sculpture

Important Notice: Due to a grant-sponsored project to digitize materials from the May 4 Collection, in-person use of the May 4 Collection is available by appointment only. Please help us serve you better by contacting us in advance to schedule an appointment for access to this collection.

Collection on George Segal's Abraham and Isaac sculpture

May 4 Collection - Box 90

Finding Aid

Prepared by Nancy Birk, 11 July 1994; Updated November 2014; Extensively revised by Cara Gilgenbach, February 2017


Inclusive Dates: 1978-1990
Extent: .5 cubic feet (1 slim document case, 1 oversized folder, 1 flat oversized box)
Physical Location: 11th and 12th floors


Historical Note: In 1978 American artist George Segal was commissioned to create a bronze sculpture in commemoration of the Kent State shootings. This work was commissioned by the Mildred Andrews Fund of Cleveland, Ohio, in agreement with Kent State University. After University officials learned more about the nature of the proposed work, took issue with the accuracy of the Abraham and Isaac metaphor, and questioned its appropriateness in relation to the shootings, a decision was made to reject the commission. This decision was met with vocal opposition and dismay by many, including some of the injured students, while others voiced agreement with the decision. Following its rejection by Kent State, the work was installed on the campus of Princeton University where it remains a part of John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection. In early correspondence about the work, Segal refers to it by the title of Abraham's Sacrifice of Isaac. The sculpture was later named Abraham and Isaac: In Memory of May 4, 1970, Kent State University, though many use the short-hand title of Abraham and Isaac to refer to the work.

Scope and Content: The collection includes materials about George Segal's sculpture, Abraham and Isaac, which was created in response to the Kent State shootings and is located at Princeton University. In particular, this collection reflects the history of the original proposed commission, its eventual rejection by Kent State, and the resulting responses to that decision by various individuals.


Processing Note: This collection was re-processed in February 2017. The collection was formerly known as "May 4-related Memorials and Protests at Other Institutions," although the bulk of the materials in the collection related to the Segal sculpture. 

Related Materials: See also the May 4 Clippings collection for newspaper and magazine articles related to the Abraham and Isaac sculpture. There are two videos about George Segal in the Films and Videos Related to May 4 collection. The George Segal papers are held by the Princeton University Library, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Manuscripts Division. 

Restrictions on Use: Rights to reproduce any words, images, and art created by George Segal must be obtained in writing prior to use from both the Department of Special Collections and Archives and VAGA, rights representative for the George and Helen Segal Foundation.

Separated Materials: Materials unrelated to the Segal sculpture that were filed in this collection prior to re-processing in 2017, if retained, have been moved to the May 4 Subject Files collection. 

Sponsor: Digitization of this collection was funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.


May 4 Collection - Box 90
Folder -- Contents

  1. Segal sculpture: Correspondence to Elaine Miller Holstein from Brage Golding, January 23, 1978
    Scope and Content: Indication at top of photocopied letter that same correspondence was sent to the parents of other slain students. Third paragraph of letter makes mention of the Segal sculpture being considered.
  2. Segal sculpture: Correspondence to/from Peter Putnam, 1978
    Scope and Content: Correspondence with Putnam of the Mildred Andrews Fund regarding commission of a work of sculpture by George Segal in commemoration of the Kent State shootings. Includes a proposed contract outlining the terms of the commission as well as internal Kent State memoranda reporting on phone conversations with Putnam regarding the commission.
  3. Segal sculpture: Correspondence to/from George Segal, 1978
  4. Segal sculpture: Correspondence to/from Kent State administration, January-August, 1978
    Scope and Content: Includes internal memoranda regarding developments regarding the proposed Segal sculpture as well as letters sent to Kent State officials following their ultimate decision to reject the work being placed at the University.
  5. Segal sculpture: Correspondence to/from Kent State administration, September-December, 1978
    Scope and Content: Includes internal memoranda regarding developments regarding the proposed Segal sculpture as well as letters sent to Kent State officials following their ultimate decision to reject the work being placed at the University.
  6. Segal sculpture: Correspondence to/from Kent State administration, 1979
    Scope and Content: Includes letters sent to Kent State officials following their ultimate decision to reject the work being placed at the University.
  7. Segal sculpture: Correspondence about Boston Magazine "Turkey of the Year Award," 1978-1979
    Includes a two-page photocopy of a section of Boston Magazine in which Kent State University was named among the "Turkey of the Year" awardees, correspondence to/from Brage Golding to the magazine's editor, and a photocopy of Golding's letter to the editor as published in the February 1979 issue of the magazine.
  8. Segal sculpture: Correspondence about a casting of the sculpture, 1986
    Scope and Content: Includes a discussion of inability of the University to obtain a copy casting of the Segal sculpture.
  9. Segal sculpture: Photographs of Work in Progress, 1978
    Origination: George Segal.
    Scope and Content: Photographs of plaster casting of proposed sculpture by Segal. On verso of prints: "Work in Progress, Memorial for May 4, 1970 Kent State University Abraham's Sacrifice of Isaac, Submitted May 31, 1978."
    Physical Description: Four black and white photographs, signed and dated by Segal, each with annotations by the artist on verso sides.
    Physical Location: Filed in the map case.
  10. Segal sculpture: Photographs, March 30, 1990
    Origination: Nancy Birk, former Curator of Kent State Special Collections and Archives.
    Scope and Content: Four color photographs taken of sculpture as installed at Princeton University. One photograph includes Birk and her son standing near sculpture.
  11. Segal sculpture: Photographs, undated
    Origination: Origination is uncertain. Photographs possibly taken by John Logue, professor of political science at Kent State University from 1976-2009.
    Scope and Content: Black and white photographs taken of sculpture as installed at Princeton University showing five different views of the work. Ten negatives, including the five printed photos, are included. Two of the negative frames are damaged.
  12. Segal sculpture: Press releases, 1978-1979
  13. Segal sculpture: Drawing of Proposed Work, 1978
    Origination: George Segal.
    Physical Description: Black and white drawing of "Proposed Memorial for Kent State University, Kent, Ohio on the Events of May 4, 1970, Abraham's Sacrifice of Isaac, Submitted May 31, 1978." Signed and dated by Segal, framed. Measures approximately 21.25 inches X 29.25 inches.
    Physical Location: This item is stored in an oversized flat container and shelved on the 11th floor.