armenian museum

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!