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.

Hrair Hawk Khatcherian to Present New Magnificent Album on Khatchkars on Thursday, March 30.

IMG_3597Acclaimed photographer Hrair Hawk Khatcherian will present his new, massive album entitled, Khatchkar [Խաչքար] at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, March 30 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Spanning over 500 pages and including well over 1000 exquisite photographs, Khatcherian’s unprecedented photographic compilation comprises easily the most comprehensive photographic documentation of the signature sacred art form of the Armenian people.

Khatchkars are intricately adorned crosses sculpted into stone, which are ubiquitous in the Armenian homeland. Armenians continued to create khatchkars wherever they migrated. As such, beautiful examples of khatchkars—no two of them alike—can be found all over the world, wherever Armenians live or have lived; and they date from the early centuries of Christianity to the present time. They are true markers of Christian Armenian presence.

Khatcherian has photographed khatchkars in Armenia and throughout the world. Some years ago he visited the Zohrab Center to exhibit photographs he had taken from western and historical Armenia.

The publication of the album was subsidized by Mr. and Mrs. Hagop Didizian of London.

2017-03 HawkKacherian.001CLICK HERE to download a full-color flyer.

Born in Lebanon, Khatcherian lives in Canada. There, in 1988 he participated resolutely in the various activities of the Diaspora linked to the Artsakh Movement. In 1993 he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In his hospital room where he underwent terrible treatments which alone could kill a man, there was on the wall a cross and photographs of Armenia and Artsakh.

“It was by staring at them fiercely, day by day, with my mortally wounded hawk’s eyes, that I succeeded in tearing myself from the claws of Death, to take flight again, and to rise high again in the sky, in the direction of my true destiny,” he writes. Today, fully and miraculously recovered, with his wife and two teenage children, he “lives only for and by Armenia, the Artsakh, and the fundamental references and benchmarks of the Armenian world.”

The presentation is free and open to the public. All are welcome to attend. A reception will follow the event and copies of Khacherian’s book will be available for sale.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

Armenians and the History of Photography. A Pictorial Presentation on December 9

ArmPhotography1Who knew that in the Middle East of the 19th century, the pioneers of the newly-emerging art of photography were Armenians?

That is indeed the case according to Dr. Joseph E. Malikian, founder of a massive, new archive of vintage photographs. Dr. Malikian will tell the story in a pictorial presentation at the Zohrab Center entitled, From Constantinople to Egypt: The Armenians in the Development of Photography in the Near East. 

The presentation will take place on Wednesday, December 9 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York, NY.

2015-11 ArmenianPhotographyMalikian.001CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

It is well established that as early as the 1850s prominent photographers emerged from the Armenian communities in many of the cultural and commercial capitals and principal towns in the Ottoman Empire. Armenian photographers such as the Abdullah Freres, Pascal Sebah and Gabriel Lekegian enjoyed tremendous success first in Constantinople and eventually in Egypt.

During this early period, Jerusalem also emerged as a center where Armenians played a dominant role in the field of photography. The leading photographer of the Armenian Convent there was Garabed Krikorian.

ArmenianPhotography1Dr. Malikian will discuss these photographers and their contributions. He will explore the reasons why the Armenians played a dominant role and were considered to be pioneers in the newly invented photographic industry in the Ottoman Empire. The presentation will draw generously upon vintage images acquired for a newly formed archive, The Middle East and Armenian Photography Archive (MEAPP). 

ArmenianPhotography2Dr. Malikian is a frequent visitor to the Zohrab Center, where he has been studying the ZIC’s small but important collection of historic photographs, some of which he will display during his lecture.

Malikian is the author of The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire: An Anthology and a Photo History, published in 2011 by the Armenian Catholicate of Cilicia.

For the past ten years, Joseph E. Malikian has been engaged in the study of archival photographs as it relates to Ottoman and Middle Eastern history. During the course of his research, he initiated an internationally based project (The Middle East and Armenian Photograph Project – MEAPP) which is devoted to the collection of vintage images of the Middle East around the turn of the twentieth century, in addition to images by the Armenian photo studios from the 1850s to the 1960s.

The lecture is free and open to the public. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.


From the ZIC Photograph Archives. Do You Recognize These Faces?

One of the treasures of the Zohrab Center is its rich collection of historical photographs, some of them from 19th century Armenian communities in western Armenia and the Middle East, many of them documenting the early history of the Armenian community in the United States.

The collection, numbering hundreds of photographs, has grown gradually thanks to the donations of American Armenians going back to the establishment of the Diocese of the Armenian Church over a century ago.

One person working with the ZIC collection is Dr. Joseph Malikian, an expert in 19th and early 20th century Armenian photography and photographers, who has his own vast and precious personal collection of historical photographs, and who published the recent album, The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire: An Anthology and a Photo History (Antelias, Lebanon, 2011). (Read about a recent exhibit from his personal collection of Ottoman-era photographs).

Dr. Malikian recently brought to our attention one of the rare photographs that contains identifying information.

IMG_1346The print, measuring approximately 5 x 7 inches, depicts 8 well-dressed young men standing behind two distinguished gentlemen and an Armenian clergyman, all seated. On the reverse we read the following caption:

Ագ-Շէհիրի դպրոցի բարձրագոյն կարգի աշակերտները իրենց տնօրէնը Լեւոն Աղապապեան, Գարեգին Սրբազանը՝ ներկայիս Պօլսոյ պատրիարք Խաչատուրեանը, Արմենակ Օրմանեան։ 1913-1955.

The students of the senior class of the Ak-Shehir school [with] their principal, Levon Aghababian, Bishop Karekin Khachadourian—currently the Patriarch of Constantinople, [and] Armenak Ormanian. 1913-1955.

Relatively few of the ZIC photographs include identifying captions such as this one.
Relatively few of the ZIC photographs include identifying captions such as this one.

The fascinating photo and caption provide a glimpse into a long-forgotten page in the story of the Armenian people. Ak-Shehir is a city in west-central Turkey that had a small, but vibrant Armenian community far from the larger pre-Genocide Armenian centers hundreds of miles farther east.

Patriarch Karekin Khachadourian, a native of Trabizon, served as Patriarch of Constantinople from 1951-1961. The years “1913-1955” that conclude the caption probably indicate the date of the photograph (1913) and the date that the caption was written (1955).

But who is Levon Aghababian, the principal? And who is Armenak Ormanian? Is the latter a relative of Maghakia Ormanian, the great intellectual and prolific scholar who converted from the Armenian Catholic Church eventually to become Patriarch of Constantinople in 1896?

If you can provide any additional information about these individuals, the photograph, or the Armenian community of Ak-Shehir, please post a note on this blog.

Continue reading “From the ZIC Photograph Archives. Do You Recognize These Faces?”