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#OTGYpsi: '60s and '70s protest movements on EMU campus chronicled in new oral history projects


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: '60s and '70s protest movements on EMU campus chronicled in new oral history projects

EMU Archives Omeka

EMU Archives Omeka: "Five Days in May"


Rylee Barnsdale: You're listening to 89 one WEMU. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is On the Ground Ypsi. Each year, the EMU Archives and EMU Historic Preservation Program offer a course in oral history techniques, which prepares interested students for work within the oral history program, according to EMU's Oral History Program website. And this year, two oral history projects are focusing on student unrest at EMU throughout the 1960s and 70s. From digging into the archives to see how students in EMU's Black Student Association fought to address a lack of Black studies on campus and planned to occupy Pierce Hall in 1969 to seeing how EMU students protested after the Kent State shootings of 1970. EMU lecturer and coordinator of the EMU Oral History Program, Matt Jones's students are sharing the university's long history of students taking action. With me today is EMU student Kat Haycanyan, whose work in the archives has led to the near completion of the "Five Days in May" project, which started work in 2022. Hi, Kat! Thanks for being here!

Kat Haycanyan: Thank you for having me!

Rylee Barnsdale: So, I'd like to start with the project itself. You know, what is the "Five Days in May" project? What all is in the archival footage that you've been sorting through and putting together?

Kat Haycanyan: Yeah. So, "Five Days in May" is a series of oral histories that documents the stories of student activists, administrators and some of the Washtenaw County Police officers who were involved in the events leading up to and the events that occurred after Kent State in May 1970. So, we kind of go from the very small beginnings. We talk about the BSA. We talk about underground newspapers, like the Second Coming and The Obsidian and how they played a role in everything.

Rylee Barnsdale: So, how did you initially get involved in working on this particular project? Was it something that was rather interesting to you just on its face? Was it something that you were assigned to in a class? How did you become acquainted with the subject matter?

Kat Haycanyan: Yeah, I was actually in that class when the project started. And, you know, I had known about kind of the student response to Vietnam and all the things that were happening on other college campuses. You know, I figured it happened in California and at Kent State and probably at U of M, but I never considered how it would have affected students here. And that was the project that was assigned for that class. And so, we each got, like, our final big interview was with people who were involved with that. And so, I got to interview Frank Michel. He was the creator of the Second Coming, which was an underground newspaper. It ran for about a year and a half, I believe. They put out tons of issues, and it was like, super radical. And the administration really tried to, like, suppress it and get it off campus.

Rylee Barnsdale: And is this something that you are now taking on mainly on your own? You know, what is the work of the oral historian kind of look like?

Kat Haycanyan: Right. So, we did all the research together collaboratively, and then we did our interviews on our own. And part of our grade was to transcribe them. And so, I was not expecting to kind of see this project through to the end. I guess I did a really good job with my interview with Frank, because Matt fought to get me hired at the archives, and one of the things that I wanted to help with was getting this project published. And so, that looked like reviewing the transcripts and making final edits. And then, we send them out to our "narrators," as we call them, for them to review and make any changes. Once they send them back, we can make audio and final transcript edits, so leveling the speech volumes and things like that, taking things out of the audio that maybe they wanted to go off the record for.

Rylee Barnsdale: Putting things up making sure everything is cohesive.

Kat Haycanyan: Yeah. So, like, formatting the transcripts, so they all kind of looked the same and just so that we have one kind of cohesive look for everything. And then we publish them to SoundCloud. And then from SoundCloud, we create a file in our digital commons, which is kind of where the library kind of stores all of our digital resources. We also have another website. It's the Omeka website. It's specifically for archives. I created kind of like the web page for Five days in May. So, that looked like putting the oral histories up there, putting some photos up there, linking to digital resources on Jstore, that kind of thing where we could have not only the oral histories, but also these other resources. So, I digitized Eastern Echo negatives from that time. We have digital versions of The Second Coming up there and The Obsidian. It's all been such a great experience and like getting to connect with these people who participated in this. It's been so incredible. And I mean the work--it's so rewarding in the end. And it's just so fun. Like, you know, all these interviews that I didn't sit in on or that my classmates did. I was able to kind of listen to them as I was editing them. And I was like, "Wow!"

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, chatting with EMU student researcher Kat Haycanyan. So, Kat, we talked about the lengths of the work and what that looks like: the interviews, the photos, the audio, all of these different moving parts for the project. Is there anything of particular note that stuck out to you through that research or any interesting tidbits you can share with us?

Kat Haycanyan: Yeah. So...Oh, man. There's so much. I feel like just the way that everything connected and kind of led up to this huge explosion on campus, basically after the Kent State shootings. And what was really interesting was there was this student writer for the Eastern Echo, and she wrote an article comparing Kent State to EMU and was basically, like, the schools are so similar. What happened there easily could have happened here. That really set students off. The National Guard was called in, Washtenaw County, police were called in, and it was just five days of nonstop rioting--basically, like, uprising. And what really stands out to me is that nothing really happened like that on campus before. And I feel like nothing really has happened since then like that. Every little thing started to add up and it finally reached its boiling point.

Rylee Barnsdale: And looking at oral history as a whole beyond this particular project, what makes this work so compelling to you and all of this research and putting things together in this way?

Kat Haycanyan: I think it's we know what happened. We know the dates. And we know the people. And we know what resulted from it. But there's always that human component of it, obviously, where it's like, "What were people feeling? Why didn't they do the things that they did? Why did they react that way?" And I think that's really important to have, especially in historical research. You know, a lot of people would argue, "Everyone's memory is different," and stuff like that. But I feel like everyone's feelings were different. And so, it's important to get all those kind of different perspectives, especially with something so complex as like student protests and student activism on campus.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm talking with EMU student researcher Kat Haycanyan. So, Kat, you've been working on this project for some time now. What can you tell us about where you're at? You know, is it finished? Have you done all the archiving you could possibly do?

Kat Haycanyan: Well, I'd like to say we're finished. We have an Omeka site, and all the oral histories have been uploaded, so they're completely publicly available. You can literally just Google "Five Days in May," and it'll come up. I mean, it's a really, really wide reach that we have. So, in terms of that, we're done. But we're working on some things where I don't want to say too much because I want to keep it a surprise, but we're working on some really cool things with this project. So, I think it's probably not going to be done officially done for a while. And even then, I don't know if we'll ever be. You know, the more that we put out, the more people are interested, and the more people reach out. And I mean, with every project that we do, we're always finding more and more people, even after the project has been published.

Rylee Barnsdale: So, for those who may be interested in finding out what those surprises are or when those come together, where can people find this project and learn more?

Kat Haycanyan: Yeah. So, our Omeka website, it's O-M-E-K-A. You can just Google EMU Archives Omeka, and it'll come up. But also, our social media is a really great place. We're on Facebook and on Instagram, and we're always posting updates there. Every project that we complete, we like to make a big fancy post for it. Yeah, those are probably the best places.

Rylee Barnsdale: Well, thank you so much, Kat, for sharing some of some EMU history with us, as well as giving us a look into what your work in what the oral history space here at Eastern looks like. I really appreciate you being here.

Kat Haycanyan: Yeah! Thank you!

Rylee Barnsdale: For more information on today's topic and links to the full article, visit our website at WEMU dot org. On the Ground Ypsi is brought to you in partnership with Concentrate Media. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti.

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Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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