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.

Komitas Vartabed and the Survival of Armenian Music. June 9

0205KomitasThis season’s final Zohrab Center enrichment evening will be devoted to the legacy of the celebrated and beloved Armenian priest-musician-composer, Komitas Vartabed.

Ashley Bozian-Murtha will present a talk entitled, Komitas Vartabed and the Survival of Armenian Music at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, June 9 at 7PM.

Komitas is a central figure in the history of Armenian music, particularly the sacred music of the Armenian Church. His contributions span liturgical, folk, and even concert music. Surprisingly, despite his universal admiration today, during his lifetime his work earned him the ire of church officials and his fellow clergymen, who frequently denounced him as a musicological firebrand and moral deviant.

KomitasVartabedPerhaps more significant than his work inside Armenia, however, is his legacy to the global Armenian diaspora. While controversial during his lifetime, Komitas was uniquely positioned to preserve Armenian music from the oblivion of genocide. Were it not for his oft-condemned inclination to transcribe and transform the music of Armenia, that vast tradition may well have perished in the attempted destruction of the Armenian people.

Much research exists on the life of Komitas, and on Armenian music as a separate entity, but there remains a relative paucity of work to place the two in context with one another. Ms. Bozian-Murtha will survey and sort through the biographical, musicological, and historical research on the composer and his impact on Armenian music. Analyzing the composer’s original compositions and transcriptions along with secondary biographical sources and historical data, she asserts that the very survival of Armenian music in the aftermath of the Genocide is a direct result of Komitas’s labors. 

2016-05 MaranciVigilantPowersFlyer.001.jpeg.001CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

Ashley Bozian-Murtha is a PhD candidate in History at St. John’s University (New York). She holds a B.A. in History and Music and an M.Ed. from Manhattanville College (New York). Following her undergraduate work, she earned an MA in Music History from Hunter College, where she wrote her master’s thesis on the life and work of Komitas Vartabed. 

The program will be held in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. All are welcome to attend the free event, which will be followed by a reception.

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

The Young Turk Revolution of 1908: Space, Symbolism and Language. Lecture by Dr. Bedross Der Matossian. May 5

2016-4 MatossianYoungTurks.001Dr. Bedross Der Matossian, Associate Professor of Modern Middle East History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will present a lecture at the Zohrab Information Center entitled, The Political Culture of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908: Space Symbolism, and Language on Thursday, May 5, 2106 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

The Young Turk Revolution of July 24, 1908 brought jubilation to Istanbul and other cities across the Ottoman Empire. Turks and other ethnic groups shared in the festivities that heralded the demise of the old regime and the inauguration of what was to have been a new and hopeful era. To build consensus among the various ethnic groups, the Young Turks introduced new social and political definitions, new symbols, and new rituals.

Professor Der Matossian will analyze the revolutionary rituals of these festivities from the perspective of space, symbolism and language as he explores the Young Turks’ attempts to create a new civil religion that would provide solidarity and emphasize oneness rather than distinction.

Bedross Der MatossianBorn and raised in Jerusalem, Dr. Der Matossian is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he began his graduate studies. He completed his PhD in Middle East History at Columbia University in 2008. His areas of interest include ethnic politics in the Middle East, inter-ethnic violence in the Ottoman Empire, Palestinian history, and the history of the Armenian Genocide.

He has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago. The recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, he is the author of dozens of published articles and digital projects. His book, Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empirewas published by Stanford University Press in 2014.

The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Information 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.


Portraits of Survival: The Armenians of Bourj Hammoud. Tuesday, June 9


Photographer Ariane Ateshian Delacampagne will present her photographic portrait of the Armenian community of Bourj Hammoud, Beirut, Lebanon.
Photographer Ariane Ateshian Delacampagne will present her photographic portrait of the Armenian community of Bourj Hammoud, Beirut, Lebanon on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at the Zohrab Center in New York.

The presentation of the new book Portraits of Survival: The Armenians of Bourj Hammoud, which was postponed earlier in the year because of snow will take place this Tuesday, June 9 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Ariane Ateshian Delacampagne, a photographer of Armenian descent born in Beirut, spent years among the remarkable people living and working in the Armenian enclave of Bourj Hammoud in northeast Beirut. The result is a singular portrait of this vibrant Armenian community born from the ashes of the Genocide.

The album is replete with stunning, original photographs that document the spirit and history of this remarkable community.

The evening is being co-sponsored by the Zohrab Information Center and the Department of Armenian Studies of the Diocese, as well as AGBU Ararat. The event is free and open to the public. A wine and cheese reception will follow. CLICK HERE for full details.

2015-06 BourjHammoud-page-001CLICK HERE to download a color brochure.

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

In Memory of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian

Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, former Primate of the Armenian Church of America.
Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, former Primate of the Armenian Church of America.

This week will mark the 80th anniversary of the tragic death of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, who was martyred at Holy Cross Church of Armenia in New York on December 24, 1933.

Tourian Srpazan was one of the intellectual and spiritual giants among the clergy of the Armenian Church in modern times. Born in Constantinople in 1879, he was a graduate of the renowned Seminary of Armash outside the imperial capital. There he studied from 1898-1902 under the tutelage of his elder cousin Archbishop Yeghishé Tourian, who would later become Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Autographed inscription by "Ghevont Vartabed Tourian" dated July 1, 1907 in the Zohrab Center's copy of the first volume of his book "Simple Sermons."
Autographed inscription by “Ghevont Vartabed Tourian” dated July 1, 1907 in the Zohrab Center’s copy of the first volume of his book “Simple Sermons.”

Consecrated priest and shortly thereafter bishop, Ghevont Srpazan served as the Archbishop of the Armenian Church of Smyrna, Bulgaria, Greece and Manchester, England. He also served as the personal secretary of yet another prominent Armenian churchman and past dean of the Armash Seminary, Patriarch Maghakia Ormanian of Constantinople. In 1931 he was elected Primate of the Armenian Church of America.

Tourian was an accomplished writer and orator. Many of his sermons and speeches were published during his lifetime in a multi-volume collection entitled Պարզ քարոզներ [Simple Sermons]. The Zohrab Center’s library holds copies of all of his books.

One of them is Volume 1 of this series, which contains an autographed inscription by Archbishop Tourian which reads:

To the most noble and radiant Mr. and Mrs. Gullabi Gulbenkian as a sign of respect and eternal remembrance. –Ghevont Vartabed Tourian. 1 July 1907.

Gullabi Gulbenkian was a Genocide orphan who became an affluent industrialist and philanthropist. Tourian inscribed the book to him just months after it was published in Constantinople, when he was still a young priest “Vartabed.”

A Christmas Sermon by the Young Tourian Vartabed

In a Christmas sermon that opens the volume, Archbishop Tourian quotes the words of King Herod: “Search diligently for the child” [Matthew 2:8]. Herod was threatened by the attention that the newborn Jesus was attracting. Exotic Magi had arrived from the East bearing gifts for the newborn, whom they were referring to as a king, and thus a potential rival to Herod’s throne. Herod ordered that the child be located so that he might worship him. But the devious King actually intended to destroy the child. Setting out from this scene, Tourian Srpazan gives a lesson in how one should diligently seek God today. CLICK HERE to read an English translation of this sermon.

Ghevont Srpazan’s books, as well as those of his elder cousins Yeghishé and Bedros, are available in the Zohrab Information Center for those interested in perusing them.

May the eternal memory of the just be blessed. Յաւիտենական յիշատակն արդարոց օրհնութեամբ եղիցի։