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March/April 2022 -   -  

After more than forty years of publication, the staff of The VVA Veteran is thinking about what they need to do to protect the legacy of the magazine in the remaining years of the organization. In the offices of The Veteran, this notion had been on the periphery for some time, said Art Director Xande Anderer. A few years ago, the staff discussed the need to preserve the magazine’s back issues in an archive, but there was no formal plan.

The project came to life when Editor Michael Keating received a call from Will Canova, the Newspaper and Periodical Projects Coordinator for the George A. Smathers Libraries at The University of Florida. Canova inquired about adding The Veteran to the Digital Military Collection in the library’s archives. And so, by good fortune, The VVA Veteran Legacy Project was born with its first digital host.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the journals and publications of an organization once it ceases to exist? In the Internet age, where information from publications seems ubiquitous and incredibly easy to access, it is easy to forget that many publications were once available only in print. As these publications age, the likelihood of print copies of old issues remaining diminishes by the year, and the risk of losing the information contained within them increases.

Phase I of the Legacy Project, digitizing and archiving back issues of The VVA Veteran—a daunting and largely manual task—is nearing completion. Issues from 1999 forward were already digitized and ready to go, but print-only issues go back to 1980, and the early (pre-1999) digital files present their own challenges and are increasingly difficult to work with.

“I’m opening those older electronic files now, twenty-five years later, and the fonts are corrupt, they reflow, and they need to be rebuilt before new PDFs can be made,” Anderer said. “But that’s still going to be better than [working with] non-digital files.”

Anderer jokes that, after nearly thirty years working on the magazine and devoting his time and energy to the publication, it feels a bit self-serving to pursue the Legacy Project. However, knowing the significance of the magazine’s contents, it is much more than a vanity project. The VVA Veteran is not just a collection of articles and memories; it’s a part of the history of Vietnam Veterans of America that Anderer and Keating care deeply about preserving. This is a purpose-driven mission.

Searching for More Partners

“One thing I have learned about this magazine is that historians read it and researchers read it,” Anderer said. “We get calls about back issues on subjects that somebody is writing a book on, so it feels like it will be valuable to someone; it might be 50 years, it might be 100 years, it might be 200 years from now that somebody will want to read it.

“That’s how we know all about the aftermath of all the other wars. If you want to know about the aftermath of the Civil War, go to the Grand Army of the Republic’s publication. They had a magazine. Historians read it. Someone’s going to want to read ours, too.”

Phase II of the project centers on finding more institutions interested in preserving the legacy of the Vietnam War generation. In addition to the University of Florida, with any luck, The Veteran soon will be hosted electronically by the University of Central Missouri, although the pandemic has caused delays. Texas Tech University’s preeminent Vietnam Archive was not interested in hosting the electronic files; however, a nearly complete set of print issues was recently added to its Vietnam Center’s Sam Johnson Vietnam Archive.

The Legacy Project has been promoted at VVA National Conventions, and Keating and Anderer continue to contact potential hosts. They want members to know that VVA’s legacy, as reflected in its national magazine, will be preserved.

“We’re hoping to get a few more partners, either universities or library systems, so that when VVA goes away, the history that’s embedded in the magazine will survive and somebody won’t just hit the delete button,” Keating said. He fears that many people “don’t realize that when VVA goes away, the website will go away, and a lot of history will just disappear.

“VVA is coming to the end of its lifetime in terms of being the organization it is today,” Keating said. Some forecast a remaining organizational lifespan of just eight years. “There’s a lot of discussion about where we go from here, and that’s part of what caused us to pursue the Legacy Project with the magazine.”

As the organization enters its fifth decade, the urgency intensifies for the need to find more archival hosts. Pre-pandemic, several universities had expressed an interest in hosting the archive, but have not followed up. Anderer is unsure whether things have opened up enough to get those projects fired up again. He points out that projects like these often require student labor. It may be difficult to move things forward until the pandemic is behind us and life gets back to normal.

A Call for Help

VVA could use your help locating additional hosts for the The VVA Veteran archives. These are your stories, the enduring legacy of your lifetime. If you know someone at an institution who may be interested in hosting this material for future generations, please reach out to them or contact Michael Keating at mkeating@vva.org or 301-455-6900.




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