The new May 4 Visitors Center opening to the public today at Kent State University has some opposition from the family of one of the four students shot and killed by Ohio National Guardsmen 42 years ago.
Laurel Krause, the sister of Allison Krause, who died on campus May 4, 1970 after being shot by guard troops, said the new visitors center does not tell the whole story about what happened that day when four students were killed and nine others wounded following a student protest against the war in Vietnam.
"Any exhibit is good if it’s talking about Kent State," Laurel Krause said. "But when it’s only more of the same cover-up, my only word on that is: shame."
Krause said the new exhibit fails to address several key elements of the shootings, including: a 2010 analysis of an original audio recording of the shootings that the analyst concluded includes an order to fire by the guard; the involvement of the federal government in possibly instigating the shootings and then covering up its involvement; and the role of FBI informant Terry Norman.
"This points to very devious situations going on at Kent State that the students were highly unaware of. They did not know they were risking their lives that day," Krause said. "There's no commentary about the truth of what really happened."
The $1.1 million visitors center, located in Taylor Hall near the site of the shootings, was designed by Gallagher and Associates, based in Silver Spring, Md., with input from faculty and students at Kent State. The actual contents — dozens of artifacts, photographs, articles and videos — and design of the center were determined over several years via multiple public meetings and analysis of the available historical records.
It features a three-gallery layout with the first gallery setting the tone of the 1960s and events leading to May 4, 1970. The second gallery explains in detail the timeline of events of the actual shootings, and the third gallery reflects on the shootings with videos, news clippings and statements given both past and present from witnesses, government and university officials and civil rights leaders.
Laura Davis, director of the May 4 Visitors Center, said the center does briefly address the audio analysis of what's known as the Strubbe Tape, so named for the student who's recorder captured the melee. But the center does not address what role Norman may have played, nor does it address Krause's assertions about the FBI's involvement.
"There are a lot of things about which you could say a lot more," she said. "So what we included were the best documented facts.
"There are a lot of different theories about what Terry Norman’s role in the event was," Davis said. "He may have something to do with the story directly. He may not. There’s a lot of different information about him, and there’s no certainty at this point in terms of what the documented facts were about what his role really was, other than he was working for the FBI."
The Strubbe Tape and whether it reveals an order to fire is briefly addressed in a film in the second gallery of the visitors center.
"Some accept evidence of an order to fire,” the film states. “Some do not."
Krause, who now lives in California, founded the Kent State Truth Tribunal in 2010. Its goal was, via three gatherings, "to record, preserve and honor the personal narratives of original witnesses and participants of the Kent State Massacre, May 4, 1970," according to its website.
Krause said that's another important element of reflecting upon the shootings that's left out of the new center.
"We’re not opposed to a truthful, information disseminating visitors center about what happened on May 4, 1970," she said. "In fact we support truth, justice for Kent State."
Today marks the first time the new center is open to the public, and the opening coincides with homecoming festivities at Kent State. A formal dedication of the center will be held during the annual May 4 commemoration in 2013.
Davis said the visitors center could evolve in the future to include new evidence and information about the shootings as it is revealed.
"This is a living story," Davis said. "A story about which we’ll probably know more in the future, and I’m sure that would be addressed some way in the museum. It does present a fair view. It relies on well-researched, well-documented, well-substantied information.”