The Vietnam Project
Created and maintained by the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University, Lubbock.
Reviewed Sept. 1-Oct. 1, 2004.
The Vietnam Project is a nexus of scholarship, public outreach, and activism that researchers, educators, and veterans will find invaluable to their interests in the Vietnam War and the history of Southeast Asia. This online enterprise grew out of the Vietnam Center, founded in 1989 at Texas Tech University by a group of veterans looking for ways to reflect positively upon their experiences in Southeast Asia.
The Vietnam Project consists of three main initiatives: providing online access to the center’s Vietnam Archive, housed at Texas Tech; hosting the Vietnam Virtual Archive, an online collection of over 1.5 million pages of material; and promoting an Oral History Project that invites the public to conduct interviews for transcription and storage in both the physical and digital archives. The Vietnam Project is also a hub of communication among Vietnam veterans, maintaining a list of reunions around the country and serving as a portal to over forty veterans' associations and their online document collections.
One of the most interesting features of the Vietnam Project is its emphasis on both the American and the Vietnamese perspectives of the conflict. The South Vietnamese experience is also more widely represented than that of the North, but reconciliation efforts in recent years have led to close relationships between the Vietnam Center and Vietnamese scholars who regularly attend the center’s triennial symposia. The emphasis on exchange is also reflected in the center’s scholarships, which fund the studies of both American and Southeast Asian students. Finally, a partnership with Texas Tech’s Health Sciences Center to provide medical equipment and training materials to Vietnamese hospitals is promoted and sustained through the Web site.
The reach of the Vietnam Project's initiatives is impressive but also overwhelming when trying to navigate the sprawling site. Savvy visitors will note the helpful color-coding—gray backgrounds for the Virtual Vietnam Archive, blue for the Oral History Project, etc.—but moving between the project’s various components can be frustrating. Some pages must be exited through a link, rather than the browser’s Back button, which makes it difficult to retrace one’s steps. The online finding aids and archival search engine are fairly straightforward, but the addition of some browse features would greatly assist those who do not yet know what they are looking for. Serious researchers will be glad to overcome these minor obstacles given the extent of the project’s holdings, and even casual visitors to the site will appreciate its beautiful composition and evolving gallery of war-related photographs.
The Vietnam Project and its Web site continue to expand. A Teachers' Resources Web is in the works to disseminate instructional materials. Federal funds and a recent grant are sustaining the Vietnam Archive’s goal of placing its entire collection online, including rare nineteenth-century newspapers from French Indochina. The public may contribute to this growth through document donations and the Oral History Workshop, which contains a set of step-by-step instructions for how to conduct interviews that is ready-made for classroom use. If the Vietnam Project maintains its current standard of excellence and continues to add resources related to all sides in the conflict, it promises to be the premier online source of documentary evidence, education, and scholarly exchange about the Vietnam War.
Meredith H. Lair
Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania