Zohrab Information Center Special Collections available to the public

A group of special collections comprised of hundreds of photographs, letters, scrapbooks, and other artifacts has recently been processed and is now available for the interested public to view at the Zohrab Information Center. The collections were processed by Linda Smith, a graduate student at Simmons University, pursing a degree in Archives Management, who is concurrently an archival intern at the Zohrab Center.

The collection includes over 125 years of materials that were donated over the years by various individuals.

Dr Elias Riggs
Dr. Riggs was a missionary who lived from 1810-1901 and worked in the Ottoman Empire for decades. He helped guide the translation of the Bible into modern Armenian. The plate was made and colored by E.F. McLouglin, 36 Bromfield St., Boston.

The first series contains several small portrait photographs and photographic glass plates from Armenian photographers based in Constantinople/Istanbul in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. These photographs and plates show various leaders, religious figures, and people at work or with their families, as well as various sites in Armenia and the former Ottoman Empire.

Bashi Bozooks
Bashi Bozooks were irregular soldiers of the Ottoman army raised only in times of war.
Similar to a bashi bozook, a zeibek was an irregular militia and guerrilla fighter who lived in West Anatolia from the late 17th to early 20th centuries.

The second series consists of photographs and other personal artifacts from Zaven Melik-Shah Nazaroff, whose brother was Soss E. Melik. Both brothers were artists, but Soss’s renown far surpassed Zaven’s. Both brothers, their parents Efrem Melik Shah-Nazaroff and Maria Avanesov, and friends and family members are featured in photographs, and artwork from both brothers is photographed as well.

Zaven Melik-Shah Nazaroff
Zaven Melik-Shah Nazaroff with a work of art, 1949.
Soss E. Melik
Soss E. Melik (left) is pictured here with Reinald Werrenrath, an American baritone opera singer who regularly performed under the name Edward Hamilton. This photograph was taken on August 20, 1939 in Kingston, NY.

The next series is by far the largest and consists primarily of materials donated either by former diocesan employees or people active in the diocese. The contents document people and events related to the diocese, or were donated by people who thought the materials would be of interest to the diocese and those connected to it. The materials include photographs, photo albums, clippings, letters, postcards, certificates, and other documents.

Mekhitarist monks
This photograph’s caption (in French) translates to “Armenian church vestments” and refers to the island of San Lazarro degli Armeni, home to the Mekhitarist monastery.
Reuben Nakian
From left, Reuben Nakian, Alex Manoogian, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Mrs. Reuben Nakian, and Mrs. Alex Manoogian. The sculpture on the left, a permanent installation on the St. Vartan cathedral plaza, was created by Nakian and is called “Descent from the Cross.”
Armenian dances
Delegates and guests performing traditional Armenian dances at the gala banquet for the 88th Diocesan assembly in Worcester, Massachusetts on May 5, 1990.
A unique feature of this collection is the numerous scrapbooks and photo albums available. Here is a two-page spread from one album, available in box 11.

The fourth series is the Ashjian family donation. Zovig Ashjian donated these photographs, which are primarily of her father, Fr. Arten Ashjian (1919–2016), who played an influential and leading role in the diocese throughout his long pastoral ministry, including at St. James in Watertown, MA (1955–1969) and as a teacher at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.

Father Ashjian, John A. Volpe, Archbishop Sion Manoogian
From left, Fr. Arten Ashjian, Massachusetts Governor John A. Volpe, and Archbishop Sion Manoogian at a banquet in Boston on March 28, 1965.
Father Ashjian
Fr. Arten Ashjian celebrating with others at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in 1988. To Fr. Arten’s left are current seminary dean Fr. Mardiros Chevian and current Diocesan Vicar Fr. Simeon Odabashian.

The next series is the Joseph and Joyce Chorbajian donation. Joseph served on the original steering committee responsible for the construction of St. Vartan Cathedral. After the cathedral was operational, he served in many positions within the diocese. Several photographs show Joseph, his wife Armenouhie, and daughter Joyce throughout his life. Highlights of this donation include old passports of Joseph, Armenouhie, and Joseph’s mother Veronica and cards and letters congratulating Joseph for different honors bestowed upon him by the diocese and a banquet held in his honor on November 6, 1977.

Zareh Kapikian, Ralph Anoushian, Edward Bashian, Edward Chapian, and Joseph Chorbajian
From left, Diocesan delegates Zareh Kapikian, Ralph Anoushian, Edward Bashian, Edward Chapian, and Joseph Chorbajian in May 1970.
Joyce, Joseph, and Armenouhie Chorbajian
The Chorbajian family (the three people in the background facing the camera). From left, Joyce, Joseph, and Armenouhie.

The final series in this collection contains materials from the opening of the Zohrab Information Center on November 8, 1987 through its early years. There are several photographs from events that took place in St. Vartan Cathedral, the Zohrab Information Center, and nearby, including an assembly that took place outside the diocese seeking help and awareness for Armenians suffering from an Azeri blockade in the early 1990s.

Photographs from the opening of the Zohrab Information Center
Photographs from the early days of the Zohrab Information Center, which include Dolores Zohrab Liebmann, Bishop Khajag Barsamian, Fr. Krikor Maksoudian, Dn. Hovannes Khosdeghian, and others.
Dolores Zohrab Liebmann
An undated photograph of Dolores with Mr. and Mrs. Haik Kavookjian (located in the Zohrab Information Center opening series).
Assembly against Azeri blockade
Photographs of an assembly that took place outside the diocese seeking help and awareness for Armenians suffering from an Azeri blockade in the early 1990s.

These collections illustrate the experiences of Armenian people from the 19th and 20th centuries across the globe. It serves as an invaluable look into the lives and work of many Armenian people throughout history, especially those connected with the Armenian Church and Eastern Diocese. This collection is now available for visitors looking to conduct research or simply admire documents, artifacts, and photographs from the past. A searchable finding aid of the collection is available to view here.

2 thoughts on “Zohrab Information Center Special Collections available to the public

  1. M. Daniel Findikyan

    Congratulations to Dr. Jesse Arlen and the entire ZIC team for this exciting addition to the Zohrab collection.

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