When University of California, Berkeley, history PhD student Ryan Nelson searched WorldCat for South Vietnamese newspapers as sources for his dissertation, he found that “again and again I saw that CRL had titles I wanted.”
Instead of focusing on events of the Vietnam War, Nelson has concentrated on the overlooked interregnum period, November 1963 to September 1967, to construct a social history. He is examining underlying issues in topics including politics, organized crime, gender, education, the economy, and music.
“Few institutions in the U.S. have as impressive and comprehensive a collection of South Vietnamese newspapers as CRL,” Nelson indicates. “I’ve used dozens of titles issued from 1963–1967.” Nelson notes that “Featured articles in Dân Tộc added context on critical public attitudes towards former President Ngô Đình Diệm’s highly autocratic regime. Items in Tiếng Gọi Miền Tây demonstrated the important role grassroots organizing played in establishing Cần Thơ University in 1966, which ‘top-down’ archival documents I found in Vietnam failed to recognize.”
CRL’s collection of Vietnamese newspapers owes much to an extensive microfilming project sponsored in the 1990s by SEAM (Southeast Asia Materials Project). Nelson also consulted titles digitized recently in response to researcher requests. Returning to the U.S. after research at Vietnam’s National Archive, he was relieved to have convenient access to CRL’s collections: “I am now able to put the archival documents I found in conversation with bottom-up content from the press.”