Chris Edwards: Changing gender in an Armenian family

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Watertown, November 2, 2017

CHRIS EDWARDS (ESKANDARIAN): Changing gender and the powerful role family played in his transition

Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 7 pm

Q&A and book signing/reception immediately following the presentation.

In honor of Transgender Awareness Month, Boston advertising creative director Chris Edwards, son of Ed & Nancy Eskandarian, discusses life before, during and after his gender transition in heartfelt and hilarious detail. He describes the fear and relief of coming out to his parents and sisters as well as his extended family of Armenians or “Armos” as he likes to call them, and explains the powerful role their support played in his success both at home and at work. His memoir BALLS: It Takes Some to Get Some is an Amazon bestseller, Foreword Reviews Indies gold-winner and rated one of the best books of the year by Shelf Awareness.

About Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards made his advertising debut in 1993 as a copywriter at Arnold Worldwide, a high-profile ad agency in Boston. There he used the principles of branding and marketing, along with his ever-present sense of humor, to orchestrate what was quite possibly the most widely accepted and embraced gender transition of its kind––at a time when the word “transgender” didn’t exist.

After building an award-winning career spanning nearly twenty years, Chris left his Arnold post as EVP, Group Creative Director to write his memoir, BALLS: It Takes Some to Get Some. Since then he’s become a sought-after speaker, keynoting at conferences and inspiring audiences at places like Apple, Google and Harvard with his courageous story and compelling message that we all have the power to control how others define us.

About the Armenian Museum of America

The Armenian Museum of America houses and preserves objects of art and culture collected from Armenian families and donors from around the world. The Museum holds its collection in trust for future generations as objects of witness and survival to serve as a record of Armenian creativity, ingenuity, and wisdom for those who are familiar with Armenian history and culture, as well as for those to whom these objects, manuscripts, and ephemera are a new experience.

Museum Website

Museum Contact: Berj Chekijian

Armenian Museum of America, 65 Main St., Watertown, MA 02472

Parking: Watertown Municipal lots behind the Museum.

Public Transportation: Bus 59 from Needham, 70 from Waltham Commuter
Rail/Cambridge Central Square, 70a from Waltham Commuter Rail/Cambridge Central Square, 71 from Harvard Square.

Museum Hours: Thursday–Sunday 12–6 pm, Wednesday by appointment.

Summer Studio Art Classes at the Armenian Museum of America!

summer studio art classes

The Museum is offering two art classes this summer for kids interested in learning to paint and draw among the objects in the galleries - SIGN UP SOON!

Painting and Drawing I

ages 6-10, July 11 - August 1, 2017
Tuesdays, 9:00 am - 11:00 am (4 Classes)

Painting and Drawing II

ages 11-14, July 13 - August 3, 2017
Thursdays, 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm (4 Classes)

Tuition $120, Members receive a 25% discount!

All materials will be provided: Gouache paints, brush sets, pallets, charcoal, graphite pencils, ink sets, sketchpads, and canvases.

Class size is limited to 12 students in each class.

Students will be introduced to key artistic methods at the heart of the drawing and painting process. Observational skills will be developed through experimentation with a variety of drawing and painting techniques, including gouache, watercolor, charcoal, graphite and colored pencils, and ink.

The Museum collection will be a source of inspiration and learning. Students will be exposed to art objects and artifacts in the galleries as sources of inspiration to create original works of self-expression.

About the instructor

Arevik Tserunyan is the 2017 Artist-in-Residence at the Museum. She received an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2015 and has shown her work in Yerevan, Armenia, as well as in Boston, MA. Arevik has taught at Yerevan Pedagogical University and the School of Fine Arts for Children in Armenia and was a Teaching Assistant at the SMFA in Boston. Arevik is fluent in Armenian, English, and Russian and brings her unique artistic perspective to these courses to help children explore ideas within the Museum setting.

For more information or to reserve your spot, call 617-926-2562 x4 or visit the Museum shop

A Fascinating Lecture by Taner Akçam

Akçam being documented at the Armenian Museum of America in Watertown for his presentation

Akçam being documented at the Armenian Museum of America in Watertown for his presentation

On Thursday, May 11, 2017 the Armenian Museum of America and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research were proud to present The Story Behind "The Smoking Gun": A Presentation of Never-Before-Seen Documents by Dr. Taner Akçam, the Robert Aram and Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University. Akçam also serves as the Academic Advisor to the Board of Trustees for the Armenian Museum of America.

The presentation featured an article on Akçam's recent work - published on April 23, 2017 in The New York Times - that focused on an Ottoman document Akçam states is "the smoking gun," which demonstrates the Ottoman government's awareness of, and involvement in, the elimination of the Armenian population. The presentation at the Armenian Museum of America was the first time this and other documents have ever been discussed in public.

A packed audience of Armenians and non-Armenians filled the Adele and Haig Der Manuelian Galleries on the third floor of the Museum to hear Akçam (called the "Sherlock Holmes of Armenian Genocide") discuss the puzzle piece that pulls together his life's work in Genocide research.

The "smoking gun" was revealed to be a telegram written in code by an official of the Ottoman Empire, which disappeared in 1922, shortly after the trial that convicted its author. Akçam tracked down the telegram, along with the rest of the trial records, to an archive in Jerusalem where they have been kept since the 1930s. Unable to gain access to the originals, Akçam found a photographic record of the entire archive in New York with the nephew of Krikor Guerguerian, the Armenian monk and Genocide survivor who took pictures of the entire Jerusalem collection in the 1940s. 

Prior to the lecture, a documentary crew from Associated Television International in Los Angeles interviewed Dr. Akçam in a Museum gallery. They then recorded his entire lecture to be potentially included in an upcoming documentary film titled Architects of Denial. The film, which will be released in October, will include a first-person look at Genocide through the eyes of survivors and experts to illustrate the connection between Genocide denial and the continuation of Genocide around the world. Stay tuned!

Check out our events page, follow us on Facebook and join our email list to stay updated on all of the Armenian Museum upcoming events, including lectures like this one!

Armenian Museum Objects Featured Across Boston

Pieces from the Collection of the Armenian Museum have been making their way into numerous exhibitions around Boston over the past few months. It has been so exciting to know these incredible objects from ALMA are being featured in other exhibitions, and being shared and appreciated with even more people in the area. At the end of last year, we were one of 19 institutions that took part in the Beyond Words exhibition, and this spring we have an object from our Genocide collection on loan at the Museum of Fine Arts.

ALMA Curators Gary & Susan Lind-Sinanian and Collections Manager Susanna Fout with the Canon Tables at Houghton Library

ALMA Curators Gary & Susan Lind-Sinanian and Collections Manager Susanna Fout with the Canon Tables at Houghton Library

Beyond Words - Houghton Library at Harvard University

Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections  was the first exhibition to showcase highlights of illuminated manuscripts in the Boston Area. An ambitious collaborative project among area museums, Beyond Words was notable for the size of its curatorial team, the number of lending institutions, and a multi-venue display.

The exhibition presented more than 260 exceptional manuscripts and printed books from 19 Boston-area collections, dating from the ninth to the seventeenth centuries. The three displays -- one at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, one at the McMullen Museum at Boston College, and one at the Houghton Library at Harvard University-- each covered a different time frame and purpose for illuminated books.

The Armenian Museum was honored to be one of the area institutions asked to contribute to the Houghton portion of the exhibition, which focused on the centrality of books to monastic life (open September 12-December 10, 2016), and our fifteenth-century Canon Tables (Acc. 1986.846) was included.

The exhibition was supplemented by an extensive catalog, which featured the Canon Tables and another of our rare books, The Garabed Gospel.

During the last week of the exhibition, ALMA Staff members attended a Curator's tour program with Houghton curators William P. Stoneman and Anne-Marie Eze. Staff learned more about the planning process of the Beyond Words exhibit (which took 20 years to plan!), behind the scenes information about the Houghton Library's role, and the exhibition design work involved.

Objects of  Witness and Resistance in conjunction with Memory Unearthed - Museum of Fine Arts

This spring the Armenian Museum has an artifact included in the MFA exhibition, "I must tell you what I saw" - Objects of Witness and Resistance. Officially open to the public on March 30, 2017, this special installation in the Linde Family Wing includes objects and works of art that bear witness to the destruction and silencing of specific people groups, through violence, genocide, persecution and fear.

Boston Genocide Exhibit
Boston Genocide Exhibit

A twentieth century chalk mold chosen from the Armenian Museum's collection is one of nine objects featured in the exhibition. Also included are: a painting by Armenian Genocide survivor Arshile Gorky, an ancient Assyrian relief depicting the deportation of the Babylonians,  J.M.W. Turner's Slave Ship (1840), and a nineteenth century Chinese vase that was painted over during the Chinese Cultural Revolution to protect it from destruction.

All the objects in the display are hauntingly connected by an exerpt from "The Dance" by Siamanto (Atom Yarjanian, 1910) , an Armenian poet executed in a purge of intellectuals during the Armenian Genocide.

"Don't be afraid; I must tell you what I saw so people will understand the crimes men do to men"

The chalk mold in the exhibition on loan from ALMA was originally owned by Krikor Ouzounian, who persuaded the Ottoman army to spare him and his family during the Armenian massacres of 1894-96 by offering to make chalk for the Turkish Army. Ouzounian built a secret room when his factory expanded where he hid his family at the onset of the Armenian Genocide in 1915.

Ultimately, Ouzounian perished during the Genocide, but his wife and other family members survived. When they were able to escape to the United States, they brought the chalk mold with them as a reminder of their former life and the means by which they were able to escape execution.

In conjunction with this exhibit in the Linde Family Wing is Memories Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross.

Memories Unearthed

Second in Jewish population only to the Warsaw ghetto in German-occupied Europe, the Lodz, Poland ghetto was inhabited by more than 160,000 people when it was first occupied by German forces in 1939. Henryk Ross was one of those confined to the ghetto in 1940 and, as a photojournalist, was given role of bureaucratic photographer in one of the Nazi-regime controlled departments running the city.

Unofficially, and at great risk to himself, Ross was able to capture more than the bureaucratic ID cards and propaganda shots that the Nazis had ordered. Through his lens, Ross captured the brutal everyday realities, including starvation and hard labor, of life in a Hitler-designed ghetto. In an effort to preserve his photographs, Ross buried the negatives in 1944. One of 867 survivors, Ross  returned after the liberation of Lodz by Soviet troops to unearth his memories.

Memory Unearthed presents more than 200 of Ross’s powerful photographs, comprising a moving, intimate visual record of the Holocaust. The images are accompanied by artifacts, including Ross’s own identity card, and ghetto notices. An album of contact prints, handcrafted by Ross and shown in its entirety as the centerpiece of the exhibition, serves as a summation of his memories, capturing his personal narrative. -MFA

On display until July 30th of this year, these powerful MFA exhibitions are a great visit choice during the month of April, which is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.

We are greatly honored to have been included in both of these exhibitions, and if you're eager to see even more of our collection and learn more about Armenian history, art and culture, be sure to visit our Museum in Watertown, MA. With three floors of exhibition space to explore and a collection spanning more than thirty centuries of material, we have something for everyone!

"Reimagining A Lost Homeland" Opens On A Snowy Weekend

Two daughters of the Dildilian family posing with a portrait featuring their father as a child

Two daughters of the Dildilian family posing with a portrait featuring their father as a child

After two unfortunate reschedulings and a surprisingly snowy weekend, the first exhibition of the year, "Reimagining A Lost Homeland: Ottoman Era Photography from the Dildilian Studio" opened at the Armenian Museum on the afternoon of Sunday, January 8th.

The exhibit creator, Dr. Armen Marsoobian, who is a descendant of the Dildilian Brothers, was able to make the trek up from his home in Connecticut to join the festivities, give an engrossing gallery talk about the show, and sign copies of his latest books.

In spite of the weather, we enjoyed a fantastic turnout that included many other members of the Dildilian family descendants, along with Museum members and visitors who braved the snow piles to enjoy extraordinary examples of Ottoman-era photography and stories of the Dildilian Brothers.

The exhibit, which is co-sponsored by Project SAVE , highlights the work from the Dildilian family’s business: a photography studio first founded in 1888.


Unlike many of the more well-known photographers of the Ottoman Empire who practiced in Constantinople, the Dildilian family worked primarily in central Anatolia and the Black Sea Coast. The family business was first founded by Tsolag Dildilian in Sivas, or historic Sepastia, and studios were opened across the Empire over a period of 30 years in cities like Amasya, Konya and Adana.


More than 900 photographs and glass negatives survived the period, along with family member’s memoirs describing events and life during the tumultuous and tragic period of the Massacres and Genocide.

Approximately 150 enlarged reproduction photographs make up the exhibit, with subjects ranging from family members, community streets, buildings and colleges, hospitals, orphans, and atrocities from the Genocide, all accompanied by extensive eyewitness accounts from Dildilian family members.

Project SAVE CEO Ruth Thomasian introduces the afternoon's gallery talk

Project SAVE CEO Ruth Thomasian introduces the afternoon's gallery talk

In his gallery talk, which was introduced by Armenian Museum Curator Gary Lind-Sinanian, and Project SAVE's Director and CEO, Ruth Thomasian, Marsoobian outlined the beginnings of the Dildilian portrait studio.

"We've divided [the exhibit] into groupings," said Marsoobian while explaining the show's layout. The first section explores the family story and history prior to 1915.

Marsoobian showed attendees the first photograph taken by his grandfather, which hangs at the beginning of the exhibit, "was taken in 1888 of his younger brother Ara, who then became his partner in the photography business after studying photography, not in France, but actually in Illinois in...I think it was 1905."

He also explained during the gallery talk that the only  photograph in the exhibition that is not a Dildilian photograph can also be found in the first section of the show, and it features German soldiers (visitors can hunt for this photograph in the first section of the exhibit!).

The second portion of the show highlights portraits of Dildilian family members who did not survive the events of 1915.

Armen Marsoobian (Left of Poster) with other Dildilian Family descendants

Armen Marsoobian (Left of Poster) with other Dildilian Family descendants

The family  that was able to survive the Armenian Genocide, like Marsoobian's grandfather and mother, did so because the Ottoman military and civilian authorities needed their skills as photographers, and the Dildilians were allowed to remain in their hometown of Marsovan under the condition that they convert to Islam and adopt Turkish identities. Marsoobian also explained during the gallery talk that as a part of this agreement, his grandfather was made a member of the Ottoman army as a photographer and traveled around the Empire taking photographs for the government. 

Armenian Museum Board President Michele Kolligian and Project SAVE CEO Ruth Thomasian

Armenian Museum Board President Michele Kolligian and Project SAVE CEO Ruth Thomasian

The remainder of the exhibit highlights photography of community streets, buildings, colleges, hospitals, orphans and clients from the Dildilian studio. The final portion of the show includes an amazing 360 degree panorama photograph that was taken just before the first war of Anatolia College and the surrounding landscape.

Marsoobian shared during the talk that before the Genocide, his grandfather was the College photographer and that to create the stunning image, "de took a series of 12 photographs of the whole landscape," from the roof of the Anatolia College Hospital, "and then attached them together to create the full image."

Want to hear more about Reimagining a Lost Homeland? Keep up with us on Facebooksubscribe to our email list, and check our website events list to hear about future events featuring the exhibit and Dr. Marsoobian! You can also check our Twitter for video excerpts of the January 8th gallery talk.


Dr. Armen Marsoobian is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Southern Connecticut University and has authored a number of books on the Armenian Genocide and his family’s photography, including the latest release: "Fragments of a Lost Homeland: Remembering Armenia," which outlines the Dildilian family's experiences through memoirs, diaries, and letters, along with photographs and drawings.