The Gish Film Theater and Gallery was dedicated at Bowling Green State University on June 11, 1976. A screening of the classic film, Orphans of the Storm, took place on the night of the dedication and Lillian Gish accepted the honor of dedication in person for herself and her sister, Dorothy. The next day Lillian Gish was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Performing Arts from Bowling Green State University.
On October 9, 1982, the University dedicated a collection of photographs in honor of Lillian Gish and in memory of Dorothy Gish and their mother, Mary McConnell Gish. More than 25 films are represented in the collection, which had originally been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1980 as part of a retrospective on Lillian Gish's career.
On October 14, 1990, Lillian Gish's 97th birthday, the theater was rededicated. The rededication included renovations such as a remodeled stage, enhancements to the projection booth, a new gallery and lighting on the marquee. The floor and wall coverings were replaced and 168 new seats were installed. Contributions were made to the theater by Lillian Gish's friends and admirers, creating an endowment which brings films and speakers to the theater on a regular basis.
With the death of Lillian Gish in 1993, Bowling Green State University received many items from her estate. To display these items, the Gish Film Theater National Advisory Committee conducted a fund-raising campaign in order to enlarge the gallery. On October 13, 1996, the 20th anniversary year of the naming of the theater, the University celebrated the completion of the expanded gallery and display of the Gish memorabilia.