Armenian Museum of America uses ancient treasures to spark new interest
Dumikyan’s work spans a wide variety of objects and artifacts. She had found a rare lunar calendar / chart, the origin of which was unknown. A copy exists among the Mkhitarians in Venice, who assumed that it could be part of the Haigazian dictionary. As it is not really the result of this work, research continues as to its origins. Dumikyan even contacted the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory in Armenia in case they could find out.
Dumikyan highly praised the preservation efforts of the Armenian Museum, exclaiming that the manuscripts are very well preserved with climate control and great care. However, she hopes that the museum will one day be able to afford to renovate or repair manuscripts that have suffered damage or the ravages of time. She doubts, “How we care for museum objects shows our attitude towards our cultural heritage.”
She called for increased cooperation with Armenia and hopes that in the future more researchers will come to work at the museum. Collaboration between Armenia and the Diaspora would be fruitful, she said, on many scientific and cultural topics, including the very timely one of Artsakh’s cultural heritage, especially when efforts are made to distort the Armenian history. Dumikyan in particular stressed that dialogue and vision are important to strengthen the state of current armenology and help new generations of scholars to progress.
Museum Collections and Operations Director Zoë Quinn and Executive Director Jason Sohigian have listed the museum’s four main types of virtual or online activities. There are virtual concerts on a bimonthly basis, a monthly virtual exhibition, a live webinar which is also on the museum’s website regarding the collection of Armenian 78 rpm digitized records and a show-and-tell of various objects led by curator of collections Gary Lind-Sinanian.
The first virtual exhibition was on Artsakh rugs, followed by those on ancient coins curated by collector Levon Saryan, the Norton Dodge collection of Armenian dissident art, the Azgapetian family and Near East Relief, and the upcoming exhibition of numismatic and philatelic materials on the First Republic of Armenia. These are often topical, with the Near East Relief exhibit in April coinciding with the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide or the Republic of Armenia’s first exhibit this month coinciding with the May 28 anniversary of Armenian independence. . The Artsakh carpet exhibition, the idea of Dumikyan, was inspired by the Artsakh war.
The concerts are organized by composer and conductor Konstantin Petrossian and supported by a grant from the Dadourian Foundation. Their virtual nature of concerts allowed musicians from Armenia such as members of the Nairyan Vocal Ensemble or the Yerevan State Choir to participate.
Quinn said that during this time of Covid restrictions, the museum has increased its online presence on Facebook and Instagram, and sent more emails, while for the first time it has created a YouTube account.
When asked how he chose the wide array of artifacts he presented, Lind-Sinanian replied, “Basically it’s a random choice. I don’t want to make too many objects in the same category. I’m doing a bit of this and a bit of that so that people can get a brief overview of a lot of areas that they might not necessarily be aware of.
Sohigian said: What’s exciting about this is that we have so much in the collection in stock that cannot be displayed. Gary brings them out, shows them to people and tells the story behind them. People seem to like it. We distribute it on all of our social media platforms, via email, website and YouTube. ”
The videos were originally an idea of Kolligian, who donated late last year to sponsor the series.
Consider a physical reopening and an increase in the number of members
Dumikyan is updating the museum’s galleries through his research and new labels are in the works based on his findings. Sohigian said, “There are new items and there will be reconfigurations. Alissa is discovering information that we didn’t have before, which is amazing. Our collection is significant and we are one of the few museums of this caliber in the Diaspora. Beyond that, he confirmed that the first floor galleries will have a more chronological approach and that there will be an attempt to have more interactive experiences, perhaps with cell phone apps that can provide accompaniment. audio as visitors move around the museum.
Sohigian pointed out that many visitors to the museum are not Armenians and want to learn more about modern Armenian culture and customs, according to visitor surveys. Therefore, more current materials will be added to the displays as the second and third stages are reconfigured over time. The third floor is reserved for contemporary art and rotating exhibitions, and Sohigian said new artists will be recruited to make the gallery on the third floor more vibrant.
A major new project is updating the Armenian Genocide exhibit on the second floor with the help of an outside researcher. The Cummings Foundation, a non-Armenian company in the Boston area, gave the museum a grant a few years ago for this purpose as part of a multi-year project. Sohigian said, “We will expand the range of exhibits and focus on the regions and family histories of the survivors. We want it to end on a more uplifting note, as the genocide has become the diaspora and the story of survival and experience. Oral histories of survivors held by the museum will be integrated into new interactive multimedia displays.
Sohigian said the museum is working on a smooth reopening this summer, possibly even as early as next month. As many visitors and members of the museum are not local, he continued, the virtual programs will also be kept at least to some extent in order to allow people around the world to enjoy the collections and to feel included in the Museum. It’s obviously something new and positive that came out of the Covid restrictions.
In the meantime, Sohigian, who only came to work at the museum last November, is trying to expand the membership of the museum through its various online programs. Although many people have visited and donated in the past, they have not necessarily become members. He said: “When we came up against the situation in Artsakh last year, we realized that a large part of our heritage and our history was in danger, especially with the kind of cultural erasure that we have. let’s see it. We thought this makes our mission even more important now. Therefore, he is launching a membership drive this summer to help support the care and maintenance of the museum’s collections.
The museum appears to be in a good position to do so, as it has garnered a lot of media attention. Sohigian said, “I have been here for six months as a director and have already had several interviews with non-Armenian media. I worked in the environmental field before and thought it was a popular cause in this country, but now I realize that the support for the arts is even greater. A large grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council led to a connection with WBZ radio in Boston, which advertised the museum for free. In turn, this led to an interview on the Nairyan set, which is unique for the use of sign language to accompany their programs.
Even President Joe Biden’s Armenian Genocide statement last month led to media inquiries, this time from various foreign countries. Many organizations contacted the museum in April this year about exhibits or programs, and Sohigian said the museum was able to provide photos of its artifacts to help raise awareness of the Armenian genocide and history. .
He concluded: “Even though we are physically closed, this has been an extremely busy year.” It will be even busier as the museum reopens this summer or fall.