On May 4, 1970, thirteen students at Kent State University were gunned down while protesting the nation’s war activities. This day forever changed the landscape of Kent University, as well as marked a turning point for American politics, military, police, and college campuses nationwide.
The May 4 Visitors Center (M4VC) at Kent State University opened as a permanent museum exhibit on the Ohio campus. The exhibit commemorates victims while also presenting information regarding the shooting of students by members of the Ohio National Guard on May 4 against the backdrop of the ’60s era.
A complex story in a tumultuous era, M4VC presents just the facts, allowing visitors to draw their own conclusions. The exhibit presents information in three parts:
- The dramatic social, cultural, and political changes of the 1960s
- Disbelief, surprise, and shock felt by those on campus on May 4, 1970 as seen through an original 11-minute film that documents the events of the day
- The national impact of the shootings shown through newspaper headlines, magazine covers, and kiosks displaying video testimonials.
Numerous Vietnam veterans, National Guardsmen (some present at the shooting), and others who lived during the events have visited the galleries and shared their personal stories of that tumultuous time. The M4VC has been successful in collaborating with instructors on campus who then integrate class visits into their coursework. Current students of Kent State, too, visit M4VC to learn about the university’s history while immersed in the music, footage, and photographs of that time.
Panels explain resulting legal actions of the event and challenge visitors to “communicate more effectively, respect diverse perspectives, and resolve conflicts without violence.” On interactive response stations, visitors share their perspective on this event and the exhibit which are displayed on a large screen for future visitors to consider. The exhibit closes with a final call to action with Gandhi’s words “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”