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VVAW Visits Archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society

By Jen Tayabji

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In mid-March, several VVAW Board and staff members took a road trip to Madison and visited the VVAW archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society. The archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society represent the largest and most comprehensive archives of VVAW and its members to date. There are smaller archives from VVAW members in other locations, including the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell University and the Vietnam Center and Archives at Texas Tech University.

Bill Branson and Barry Romo with the page of
the 1972 membership list showing their names.

This year, VVAW began an Archive Project to document and preserve the work of VVAW and its members for future generations. Our goal is to archive photos, flyers, publications, and other materials documenting the history of VVAW and its members. Over the past few years, VVAW staff have worked to digitize VVAW's newspaper, The Veteran, by creating PDF documents of each issue and also typing up the articles to create searchable text for the VVAW website.

VVAW made the trip to the Wisconsin Historical Society with several goals in mind. First, we wanted to see what was in the VVAW Archives. We were pleased to discover a well-organized collection of demonstration posters, flyers, photographs from VVAW events, chapter information, meeting minutes, and even a printed membership list from the early 70s. We were very impressed with the staff and facilities. The Wisconsin Historical Society has a rigorous process established for sorting, organizing and housing their archive materials. They also have a strict method for checking out items in the Archives to view in the Reading Room and do not allow for materials to be taken beyond that room for the security and protection of the Archive materials.

The most important goal of this visit was to explore collaborating with the Wisconsin Historical Society on our Archive Project. After our meeting with staff at the Wisconsin Historical Society, we are confident in continuing to have the Society serve as VVAW's official archive home. We will be working closely with VVAW members and the Wisconsin Historical Society to document and archive VVAW's organizational and membership history.

As we get ready to collect items for the archives, you have an important role to play. Take a moment to look at what you may have and organize it. Think about where you would like these items to go after you are gone. To safeguard that your items go to where you want them to go, make sure to let your family know of your wishes and/or document them in your will. The Wisconsin Historical Society will be most interested in your anti-war work with VVAW after your service. But if you have items from when you served, or other personal items you want archived, you should contact your local or state historical archive to see what items they may be interested in preserving.

Later this year, VVAW will put out a call to collect items for the VVAW archives so stay tuned! You can visit the Wisconsin Historical Society online at www.wisconsinhistory.org. For more information about VVAW's Archive Project, please contact us at vvaw@vvaw.org.


Jen Tayabji is on staff at Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). She lives in Urbana, IL.


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