About the Project

From 1955-1962, Michigan State University (MSU) played an active role in the American-led effort to build a stable non-communist state in the Republic of Vietnam (better known as South Vietnam). The Michigan State University Vietnam Group Archive contains digitized archival documents, maps, photographs, and films that offer a close look at the role of Michigan State University in this American Cold War nation-building program.

Because of personal ties to certain members of MSU's faculty, the President of South Vietnam requested MSU-led technical assistance as an important apart of an aid package offered by the United States government, which was eager to support this new non-Communist country in the global Cold War arena. Programs conducted by what was known as the Michigan State University Group (MSUG), focused on South Vietnam's rural economic growth; administrative, judicial, and financial organization; and the training and development of police and security forces. Despite the MSUG's limited success, reports, maps, images, and other materials the programs produced remain a valuable resource for understanding South Vietnamese society, as well as the nature of American intervention in the so-called "Third World".

The largest collection featured in the MSU Vietnam Group Archive contains the records of the MSUG programs themselves. The digital archive also features materials from the personal paper collections of MSUG officials, most notably Wesley Fishel, the head of the programs and the personal adviser to Ngô Đình Diệm, the president of South Vietnam. The original documents are part of the University Archives & Historical Collections at MSU, which kindly made these materials available for this project. Organization and access to the digital archive is facilitated by MATRIX: the Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at Michigan State University.

The MSU Vietnam Group Archive project is made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and its Preservation and Access program. The Preservation and Access program was created to, "ensure the long-term and wide availability of primary resources in the humanities." In collaboration with Texas Tech University's Vietnam Center and Archive, the MSU Vietnam Group Archive meets the goals of the NEH's Preservation and Access program by preserving primary resources on South Vietnam, the Cold War, and nation building contained in the program's archives and then shares those resources with a broad scholarly community.

Beginning in May 2012, project team members for the MSU Vietnam Group Archive have cataloged, documented, digitized, and organized roughly 100,000 pages of documents, maps, and images under the project management of Catherine Foley, Director of Digital Library and Archive Projects at Matrix, and Portia Vescio, Assistant Director of University Archives & Historical Collections at MSU (UAHC). Principal investigators (PI), tasked with the project's overall direction, include Cynthia Ghering, Director of UAHC; Charles Keith, Associate Professor of History at MSU; and Dean Rehberger, Director of MATRIX, MSU's digital humanities center. The advisory board, charged with providing input on selection criteria for document digitization as well as the creation of metadata schemes, includes Co-PI Charles Keith; Peter Zinoman, Professor of History at University of California-Berkeley; and Edward Miller, Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth College.

The MSU Vietnam Group Archive, the result of a high degree of institutional collaboration and support, offers students and scholars a unique resource for research and teaching about Vietnam, the Cold War, and American nation-building programs.


Project Participants

Principal Investigators
Cynthia Ghering, Director of University Archives & Historical Collections at Michigan State University
Charles Keith, Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University
Dean Rehberger, Director of MATRIX: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at Michigan State University

Project Management Team
Catherine Foley, Director of Digital Library and Archive Projects, Matrix
Portia Vescio, Assistant Director of University Archives & Historical Collections at MSU

Advisory Board
Charles Keith, Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University
Edward Miller, Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth College
Peter Zinoman, Professor of History at University of California-Berkeley

Technical Team
Seila Gonzalez, director of programming, Matrix
Zak Schlemmer, systems administrator, Matrix

Daniel Jaquint, designer
Rebecca Tegtmeyer, map interface design
Austin Truchan, designer

David Bennett, graduate student assistant
Cindy Nguyen, graduate student assistant

Brandon Bielicki, programmer
Jacob Buckley, programmer
Qijun Chen, programmer
James Green, programmer
Andrew Kellams, programmer
Eddy Maxwell, programmer
Bogdan Pozderca, programmer

Emily Field, scanning and metadata
Matt Kaindl, scanning and metadata
Kim Toorenaar, scanning and metadata
Matthew Wilcox, scanning and metadata

Siobhan Canty, data entry
Kolt Ewing, data entry and research intern
Cassie Powell, data entry

Liza Potts, user testing


About the Map

The interactive map experience for the MSU Vietnam Group Archive is built with the D3 java script library. It also uses the KORA digital repository, php 5.5, JQuery, and ImageMagick. The visual layer is built on a series of polygons in D3 representing provincial boundaries in South Vietnam in 1959, the mid-point of the MSU Group activities (1955-1962). Drawn from a United States Operations Mission map of South Vietnam contained in the Wesley R. Fishel Papers held at Michigan State University and the US Office of Geography Gazetteer NO. 58 Southern Vietnam and the South China Sea (1961), the base layer includes 39 historical provinces. Metadata for each scanned item in the archive captures information about creation dates, original formats, and spatial coverage that allow users to view materials on the historical map and filter them by year and format. 


Cookies and Terms of Use

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