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Congressman Tim Ryan

Representing the 13th District of Ohio

Congressman Tim Ryan Announces $175,000 to Kent State for an Augmented Reality Project to Honor the 50th Anniversary of the 1970 Campus Shooting

January 17, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13) today announces a $175,000 National Endowment for the Arts (NEH) grant awarded to Kent State University for an augmented reality project that will honor the 50th anniversary of the May 4th, 1970 shooting that left four students dead and nine injured.

Kent State will use this funding to develop a digital program that allows visitors to overlay historical images of the campus at the time of the shooting onto today’s renovated landscape.

“As a community and as a country, we have a responsibility to carry the lessons from our past with us as we move forward,” said Congressman Tim Ryan. “I’m proud to help bring these funds to Kent State so we may all learn from, and carry with us, lessons from the somber events at Kent State fifty years ago.”

“We believe that being immersed in those political, social, and cultural events is an essential step to understanding their historical importance and shaping our future actions.  Unfortunately, it is not always easy to step back in time 50 years,” said Dr. Richard Ferdig, Project Director.

“The use of augmented reality has been shown to improve understanding and connectedness to cultural, historical and social events” said Dr. Enrico Gandolfi, assistant professor of educational technology and Co-PI on the grant.  “We believe that this May 4th augmented reality experience will help visitors explore the nature and causes of this tragedy by offering them an enhanced sensory experience of the landscape of both memory and history of the 17.24 acres recently designated the Kent State Shooting National Historic Landmark.”

“The underlying technology behind the AR experience is designed as a platform that can be incorporated into other projects for historical storytelling and beyond.  We want to make sure that this project helps make the May 4th experience, as well as other events, accessible to the expanded community,” said Dr. Robert Clements, assistant professor of biology and Co-PI of the grant.

The grant was one of 32 NEH Challenge grants awarded to increase public and private investment in US museums, libraries, and cultural centers. Kent State will use this technology as part of a robust, year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the campus shooting.

Project Description:

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Kent State University is developing an augmented reality experience for the public.  The team was initially funded in 2018 to build a limited prototype experience to help users better understand the nature, causes, and events of the May 4th, 1970, shootings on the Kent State campus. Given the success of the prototype, Kent State sought additional funding to fully develop and disseminate the augmented reality experience. 

Because there is nothing to mark the location where the ROTC building once stood on Kent State University campus, there is no way to gauge the scope of the crowd size, and the path the Ohio National Guard marched has been permanently altered by the building of the Gym Annex.

Enter augmented reality.  The forthcoming, freely accessible and mobile-friendly tool will allow users to hold up their phone and see an overlay of historical images on today’s landscape.  Users will also be able to hear a narration of the events leading up to and occurring on May 4th, access additional materials about those events, and can reflect on those events with questions prompted within the experience.

The NEH funds will be used to expand the content provided in the prototype, reshape the user experience, and further expand the software so that other Humanities experiences could be rapidly developed and made accessible to the public.

The research team at Kent State plans on having the augmented reality application live in time for the 50th commemoration.  They will then examine outcomes in order to better inform future NEH augmented reality projects.