Michigan State University Vietnam Group Archive, a Collaborative Project, Receives NEH Funding

Michigan State University Vietnam Group Archive, a Collaborative Project, Receives NEH Funding

The Michigan State University Vietnam Group Archive, a new project by Michigan State University in collaboration with Texas Tech University, recently received $264,998 in funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to digitize 100,000 pages of materials related to the U.S. government’s early efforts to build a stable, non-communist regime in South Vietnam.

From 1955-1962 Michigan State University led the “Vietnam Project,” an experimental and controversial nation-building program in South Vietnam. With the financial support of the U.S. government, MSU faculty carried out a range of programs in administrative organization, rural economic development, and police training intended to strengthen South Vietnam. The MSU Vietnam Group Archive project will digitize and make publicly available a range of documents, reports, personal papers, and images from the MSU Archives & Historical Collections’ extensive but underused collections on the “Vietnam Project.”

This NEH project is highly collaborative both in its design and intended outcomes. Michigan State University and Texas Tech University (Texas Tech) are partnering to create the online repository that will meet the needs of scholars and archivists alike. Texas Tech will share insights and best practices it used to develop the Virtual Vietnam Archive which houses over 3.2 million pages of materials related to all aspects of American involvement in Southeast Asia. Michigan State University, in turn, will provide Texas Tech with copies of digitized “Vietnam Project” resources to augment its Virtual Vietnam Archive. MSU materials fill a gap in the Texas Tech archive, covering a time period predating the majority of its collection, which focuses on U.S. military involvement in Vietnam from 1960s-70s.

This MSU/Texas Tech data exchange will result in one of the most comprehensive repositories of archival material about Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The digital archive will provide worldwide access to materials critical for the study of Vietnam, American foreign relations and nation building, and the study of global transitions from colonial empires to nation-states. The merits of digitizing such materials for historical and humanities research are clear. Shawn McHale, Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and Associate Professor of History at George Washington University, notes that “The MSU [Vietnam] Project forms part of a long American engagement with nation-building, one that we can see, for example, in Afghanistan today. Scholars and practitioners need to study such cases in order to come to practical conclusions about what practices work and which ones do not.”

Three units at Michigan State University will spearhead the project — the MSU Department of History, MSU Archives & Historical Collections, and MATRIX, the digital humanities research center at MSU. MSU is partnering with Texas Tech’s Vietnam Center and Archive, the base of operations for the Virtual Vietnam Archive. For more information about this project, visit the MSU Vietnam Group Archive planning site.


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