Columbia Libraries Documenting Events of 1968 through Historical Twitter Account

A new Columbia Libraries project is using a historical Twitter feed to document the protests that took place at the University in 1968.

In April 1968, Columbia students occupied several buildings on campus for nearly a week, calling for the University to end military and CIA recruitment on campus, cut its ties with the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), and cancel its plans to build a gymnasium for students on public land in Morningside Park, among other issues.

The idea for the Twitter feed came to 
University Archivist Jocelyn Wilk about two years ago, while showing some students a letter that students wrote to Columbia President Grayson Kirk in April of that year.

"This is what people did when they saw something they didn't approve of," she told The Low Down, recalling her discussion with the students. "They didn't have social media, they didn't have the Internet. It was how people got their points of view across."


                                     (Students occupying President Kirk's office; 
Columbia College Today/Larry Mulvehill

The conversation left her wondering how the protests would have unfolded during the age of social media.

"Without a doubt, students would have harnessed the power of social media," Wilk said, who decided the Libraries could tell the story and engage the public in a different way for the events' 50th anniversary. 

"It's a different way of looking at this topic," she said. "We didn't want to do another traditional exhibit."


1968.PNG                                                 (A screengrab from Columbia Libraries' 1968 Twitter account)

Columbia Libraries already has a vast amount of materials in the archive related to the protests, which can be viewed in-person or online. Using these resources—and research from Columbia Spectator articles that were published that semester—Wilk is recreating the chain of events on Twitter as though it is unfolding in real-time, using a neutral, reporter voice.

She hopes that Twitter feed will be of interest to both students and alumni.

                      (Crowds heading to Low Library from the SAS/SDS Sun Dial Rally, April 23, 1968; Gerald S. Adler)


"The hope is that people who were there and who weren't there will engage with the material," Wilk said. "It is an interesting way to revisit these events on campus 50 years ago."

Follow @1968 CU here, and learn more about Columbia Libraries' exhibit.

Were you a student at the time and have something to share? Tell your story on ColumbiaYou.


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