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Texas Tech's Vietnam Center & Archive oral histories will soon be more accessible


Texas Tech University’s Vietnam Center & Archive, home to the nation’s largest and most comprehensive collection of information on the Vietnam War, is looking to make that collection more accessible to researchers around the world.

Thanks to a $95,740 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Vietnam Center & Archive (VNCA) will now be able to transcribe, edit and publish online its entire backlogged collection of oral history interviews conducted by the VNCA Oral History Project, which includes a diverse array of Vietnam veterans and their family members.

“In addition to the millions of pages of documents in our collections, the interviews we conduct as part of our Oral History Project are essential to a better and more complete understanding of the Vietnam War,” said Steve Maxner, director of the VNCA. “Our interviews provide a human face to the conflict, offering insight into the emotional and psychological costs of war that researchers cannot get from traditional government and military documents. This level of comprehension is critical, not just for students and scholars, but for military and government officials who make the policies and ultimate decisions that send our military men and women into harm’s way. This generous grant from the NEH will allow us to transcribe these interviews, providing much easier access to them and the important information they contain.”

Because of the need to record members of the Vietnam generation while they are alive and able to share their memories, the VNCA has completed significantly more interviews than it has been able to transcribe, resulting in a backlog of 185 interviews comprising about 725 hours of audio. With the NEH grant funding, the VNCA will hire student assistants to transcribe and edit the interviews over the next two-and-a-half years.

While many of these interviews are already available through the Virtual Vietnam Archive, a free and open-access online portal to the considerable digital holdings of the VNCA, they’re not exactly user-friendly. With only audio available, researchers may have to listen through hours of recordings to find a desired piece of information. The transcription allows the interviews to be keyword searched, making them much easier for researchers to use.

“As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, it is imperative that we capture and make available to the public the memories of those who experienced this conflict,” said Amy K. Mondt, associate director of the VNCA. “These interviews with veterans and their loved ones can offer invaluable insights into an individual’s experiences of war, sacrifice and service, and thus enrich society’s understanding of warfare, while giving them a vital and intimate link to the people of the Vietnam generation.”

Mondt hopes this increased access will expose the public to the great diversity of experiences among members of the Vietnam generation, including combat and non-combat roles, service in all four of the major military branches, and the impact of war on families and the home front. Transcripts of these in-depth and thorough full-life interviews will provide current and future generations enhanced access to personal insight on military service and its lifelong influence on an individual.

The project will run through Dec. 31, 2021.

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