The Texas Tech Vietnam Center became the first U.S. institution to sign a formalized exchange agreement with the Sate Records and Archives Department of Vietnam Aug. 17.

Steve Maxner, director of the Vietnam Center, said this is a milestone for Tech and the Vietnam Center because it allows a free exchange of information between the two archive centers.

"The exchange will really help students who are studying the Vietnam War," he said. "They're going to get good assistance in their research and endeavors."

Maxner said the archive in the Vietnam Center comprises more than 3 million pages of documents, more than 100,000 different photographs and almost 500 interviews.

Tran Hoang, director general of National Archives of Vietnam, said through a translator that he chose the Vietnam Center to be the first institution to sign such an agreement because of their reputation in Vietnam.

"The Vietnam Center is very famous in Vietnam," he said through a translator. "(It has a) good reputation because of the preservation of diaries."

In 2005, the Vietnam Center was given the diaries of Dang Thuy Tram, a physician for the North Vietnamese, who was killed in action in 1970.

James Reckner, former director of the Vietnam Center, said the diaries were very important to the Vietnamese people because everyone in Vietnam is familiar with Tram's story.

"Every person in Vietnam knows about Dong Thuy Tram, and they know that the diaries came to Texas Tech University, so this is a big issue," Reckner said. "In fact, the director general told me that although our government doesn't appreciate the presence of those diaries at Texas Tech, it is very important to the Vietnamese people."

At a press conference, the Vietnam Center and the State Records and Archives Department of Vietnam made their first exchange.

The State Records Archive Department of Vietnam received digitized records of the Tram diaries and the Vietnam Center was given official military documents of Tram's service.

"This is basically the equivalent of a personnel file," Maxner said. "It includes official records of her service as they were documented when she entered military service to be a surgeon, while she was going through any training and the records that they kept of her while she was serving. They only exist in the (Vietnam National) archive, so they are very rare."

Maxner said this was the first exchange of many to come.

Researchers are hoping the agreement will help resolve cases of soldiers who went missing during the war.

The U.S. military has about 1,800 cases of missing soldiers while the Vietnam military has hundreds of thousands.

Maxner said next to the U.S. archive, the Vietnam Center is the largest Vietnam archive in the country, and he hopes the agreement will gain more attention for the center.

"It is kind of disappointing to hear that people haven't heard about us, especially when they are from Lubbock," he said. "We are hopeful that signing this agreement will help increase awareness."

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