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A Visit to the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University
By Meg Miner
In the Spring 2014 issue of The Veteran, Jen Tayabji summarized a trip made by VVAW Board members and staff to the Wisconsin Historical Society's (WHS) archives in Madison. WHS serves as the official archives for historical records of VVAW's National Office, and they will accept donations from VVAW chapters and individual members that relate to their VVAW organizational activities.
Staff have been collecting and donating the organization's records to WHS since the late 1970s. This work includes sending official publications and records of VVAW events and meetings to WHS. For the long term, the VVAW Archive Project has a wider goal. In addition to saving the organization's records, we are interested in identifying ways VVAW members can save their personal photos, letters, journals, or artifacts from events and actions that took place prior to membership. Service-related material from members will not be able to be part of VVAW's collections at WHS. The staff there suggested that we contact our local or state historical archives to see what items they may be interested in preserving. While that is an option for individuals, there is another archive that is devoted to telling the story of every perspective involved in the Vietnam War, The Vietnam Center and Archives (VNCA) at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
During a recent trip to northern Texas, Assistant Archivist Amy Mondt provided me with a tour of The Vietnam Center and discussed the ways in which VVAW might be able to create an online resource for both direct VVAW activities and with images from members' personal collections. With the latter, we also discussed the ways that VNCA might provide a safe and accessible home for the original artifacts so that they will be available for future use.
The Vietnam Center's archives stand ready and willing to take personal memorabilia. VCNA was established 25 years ago and shares a large facility with archival collections related to local and university history. While their facility is large, their capacity for 3-dimensional artifacts is limited. Even so, this archive is able to accept most everything else: papers, books, films, audio, moving images; including non-VVAW material from any point of view related to the war.
The mission of the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University (TTU) is to support and encourage research and education regarding all aspects of the American Vietnam experience. The aim is to promote a greater understanding of this experience as well as the peoples and cultures of Southeast Asia. The Vietnam Center seeks to provide a forum for all points of view and for all topics relating to Indochina, particularly, but not limited to, the American military involvement there. It is as important to us to preserve the records of US veterans, who served in Southeast Asia as well as civilians active on the homefront including the anti-war movement. In addition to its mission of collecting these materials, the Vietnam Archive currently administers two projects, the Oral History Project and the Virtual Vietnam Archive. (www.vietnam.ttu.edu/general/)
As we near the 50th anniversary of VVAW, the Archive Project is interested in creating an online collection that hosts some digitized content of both the organization's events and members' experiences. We feel that no one is in a better position to provide evidence of and context for our experiences with the future than we are. The question remains, what can we do with the original records when the digital collection is built? The Vietnam Center and Archives at Texas Tech will accept material not suited for the focus that WHS has with our organization's artifacts. By working closely with our members, WHS and TTU, we hope to create a freely accessible, well-organized record of our experiences in Vietnam and afterwards. Stay tuned for details on how you can contribute to this legacy!
Meg Miner is a Gulf-era veteran, member of VVAW and VFP, and an archivist.