An archer’s bronze belt that pre-dates the Babylonians, a silver coin minted by Tigran the Great, the arch-enemy of the Roman Republic, a 1207 gospel book handwritten during the crusades, Armenian Bibles printed in the 1666 in Amsterdam, a “dog collar” that was worn by a victim of the Armenian Genocide in 1915.
These are just some of the fascinating objects that are part of the Armenian Museum of America’s permanent holdings. The Museum’s diverse collections include religious artifacts, inscribed rugs, folk costumes, metalwork, paintings, embroideries, currency, illuminated manuscripts, ceramics, home furnishings, photographs, musical instruments and more.
Some of the objects were part of extensive collections that were generously donated by private benefactors, but many items were cherished family heirlooms that were donated to Armenian Museum of America by individuals.
Coin and Currency Collection
The Armenian Museum’s coin collection, mostly donated by Dr. Paul Bedoukian, is one of the finest in the world. It includes almost 5,000 coins reflecting the classical, medieval and modern periods, as well as Dr. Bedoukian’s extensive research library. This collection has been augmented by a major contribution of the Walter & Laurel Karabian Collection, and by other collectors and specialists.
The numismatic collection is organized into several genres:
- Ancient coins of the Orontid and Artaxid dynasties, and related coins of Greek, Roman and Persian origin.
- Medieval coins from the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, related coins from the Crusader kingdoms, and Byzantine and Arab coins of the period.
- Contemporary currency including coinage and paper currency from the late Russian and Ottoman Empires, the First Republic, the Soviet Republic, and the Third Republic.
- Armenian commemorative coins and medals struck in Armenia and the Diaspora.
While different individuals contributed to Armenian Museum of America’s ceramics collections, the most significant ceramics are the Walter & Laurel Karabian Collection and the Paul & Vicky Bedoukian Collection.
The ceramics range from Neolithic potsherds to contemporary tourist art, and are grouped in 4 separate genres:
- Kutahya and Iznik pottery created by Armenian artisans from the 15th to 19th centuries.
- Jerusalem pottery from the 20th century artisans of Jerusalem.
- Contemporary ceramics including tourist souvenirs from Armenia, commemorative examples from Armenian communities in the United States, Turkey, Japan, Iran and elsewhere, and fine art examples created by professional artists.
- Archeological artifacts including ancient potsherds and related works.
Most surviving Armenian artworks that predate the 18th century are religious. The artistic genius of the Armenian culture is most visibly expressed in these extraordinary pieces. The Armenian Museum’s religious works are grouped in 3 separate genres:
- Liturgical embroideries, church vessels, illuminated books and other works used directly in the Christian liturgical service.
- Other religious artworks that reflect Armenian Christianity, but were not part of the actual liturgy.
- Folk religion includes physical expressions of folk lore that reflect the non-canonical Christian beliefs and pre-Christian elements in the Armenian peasant culture.
The Armenian Museum of America’s rug collection is the most comprehensive single resource on Armenian carpets in North America. Its largest component is the renowned Arthur T. Gregorian Collection of Armenian Inscribed Rugs (114 carpets). Armenian Museum of America’s rug holdings are augmented by the Sahmanian and the Der Manuelian Collections, and the Kasper Pilibosian Oriental Rug Collection. The holdings consist of three components:
- Over 300 Armenian carpets and kilims, which include over 175 inscribed examples.
- Over 2,400 books on the subject of oriental carpets in the Herbert Offen Oriental Rug Research Collection in the Armenian Museum of America Library.
- A diverse collection of photographs, cartoons used to design rugs, documents on Armenian rug merchants and other related materials.
Postage stamps are relatively new, and Armenian philately is a young tradition. Armenian Museum of America’s stamp collection includes most genres of Armenian related stamps: postage stamps of the First Republic, Soviet Republic, present Republic, 20th century Armenian related stamps issued by other countries, and non-postage commemorative stamps issued by Armenian institutions for various special causes (fund-raising, Easter, Christmas, etc.)
The Armenian Museum of America has one of the largest Armenian textile collections outside of Armenia. Stored in a climate-controlled environment, the holdings include costumes, embroideries, needle laces, religious and woven textiles, and accessories, such as, shoes, hats, purses, and belts. These artifacts represent many regions of historic Armenia and the Diaspora, and date from the 18th century. The cataloged collection is accessible to textile researchers by appointment.
Armenia has been an important source of metal since the Neolithic period, and Armenians have excelled as metal artisans from earliest times. The collection ranges from individual family heirlooms to gifts from larger collectors or gifted artists such as Anatoli Avetian and Georges G. Bezdjian. The Armenian metalware spans many other categories, but we classify it into several genres:
- Domestic furnishings (dishes, plates, etc.)
- Accessories (jewelry, belts, weapons)
- Religious (reliquaries, vessels, book covers)
- Contemporary art (sculpture, repousse)
The ancient Urartian (“Ararat”) Empire (900-650 BC) dominated the Armenian highlands before the political rise of the Armenians, and later Armenian culture reflects many traits of this ancient civilization. The Armenian Museum of America has a small collection of Urartian artifacts.
Situated at a major crossroads of world trade, Armenia has been appearing on maps since the very concept of cartography arose. Even when no Armenian political state existed, the Armenian homeland was clearly marked “Armenia” as a geographic region. The museum’s map holdings range from unique handmade examples to rare 18th century editions, commercial publications and contemporary tourist maps of Yerevan. The museum has a wide selection of historic maps, many of which may be viewed in the Museum database.
Posters and Prints
Posters and prints encompass an enormous range of two-dimensional works in several genres including:
- Cartoons and drawing to design rugs
- Near East Relief posters tor raising awareness and monetary funds after World War I
- Political posters including political rallies and Genocide commemorations
- Announcement posters advertisings art openings, music concerts, films and other events
- Photographs and other large images of actual events.
Please note that the “Posters and Prints” genre is restricted to commercial printed examples. Limited series prints, drawings and other original artistic expressions are classified as original artworks in the “Art Gallery Collections”, rather than “Museum Collections”.
Illuminations & Manuscripts
Armenian Museum of America owns a small collection of 20 illuminated paintings and handwritten books dating from the 13th to the 19th century. These are primarily religious works (gospel books, hymnals, prayer books) created in monasteries, but also include works on astronomy, demonology, divination, and other issues of the day. Beautifully copied in several distinctive calligraphic styles, some have striking illuminations that transform the work into a metaphoric jewel. These are stored in the climate controlled vaults.
- Garabed gospel book
- Sharakan (hymnal)
- Prayer scroll
While many of the museum’s Collections are considered rare and monetarily valuable, it is difficult to assign a monetary value to one of our most important and useful collections that of social history. This collection of correspondence, passports and other official documents, political buttons, playbills, schoolbooks, photographs and other materials associated with the early immigrants, provides a valuable glimpse of the concerns and adaptations of the immigrants settling in the United States in the period 1890-1950. These materials were donated by hundreds of families sharing their family heirlooms and documenting a unique period in Armenian social history.
- Passport/ travel papers
- Advertisement (Avak the Blacksmith)
- Photograph of picnic or banquet