This week, as the world continues to “shelter in place” to fight against the pandemic of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, we will take the opportunity to present some of the online resources where you can go “back to the sources” of Armenian Christianity and Armenian Studies more broadly. In the final days of Lent, a period of penance and reflection, many of us are looking for new activities and ways to be uplifted and edified. It is our hope that this week we can help you locate some of those (re)sources. In the past few weeks we have mentioned the specific work of some good stewards of the Armenian Christian tradition, especially its manuscript tradition. Among these is the “Virtual Reading Room” of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, known as vHMML, which is pictured above. Their reading room is one of the most innovative and interactive tools related to Armenian Christianity on the web, but it is one of many out there!
We will focus on several kinds of resources. We will also point you to other lists of resources, since there is no need to reinvent the wheel. While we will point to a couple books in the library of the Zohrab Information Center, this week our goal is more directly to build a resource you can use from the comfort of your home and will have links embedded throughout. First, like vHMML, are repositories of books and manuscripts. Not all of these have such a sleek interface as vHMML, but many incredible libraries and collections have been digitized and are therefore accessible online. One of the biggest digitized collections of books is the National Library of Armenia. This collection is particularly remarkable for its digitized periodicals: you can read Armenian newspapers and other periodicals printed in the 1800s in Istanbul or some of the rare journals of some of compatriotic societies. The Hathi Digital Trust, a larger digitization project, includes a number of digitized Armenian books. The Society for Armenian Studies maintains a site linking to many of these library resources.
While the era of Armenian printing has produced beautiful and critical editions of many Armenian texts, there are many texts that have still not been printed and only survive as manuscripts. Moreover, there are reasons why original manuscripts, rather than books, need to be consulted. Manuscript studies and paleography, the study of both ancient writing systems and the specific attention to deciphering ancient manuscripts of course rely on the manuscripts themselves. Yet historians, artists, and textual scholars can learn much by consulting original manuscripts. In the resources listed on the page of the Society for Armenian Studies, you can find many collections that have digitized their manuscripts, including UCLA and the Matenadaran. Such online collections give you the opportunity to explore Armenian manuscripts, often genuine works of art in their own right, from your computer at home. As the recently published book, Armenian Philology in the Modern Era makes clear, there is still much work to be done on Armenian texts and manuscripts. In the digital age, there are new resources and tools for exploring these ancient texts, many of which are foundational sources of the Armenian Christian tradition.
|Armenian Philology in the Modern Era: From Manuscript to Digital Text||Edited by Valentina Calzolari, this recent volume explores Armenian textual history and manuscript studies. It includes essays on a range of topics, from Armenian engagement with Greek sources to methods of textual editing in a digital age.|
|Digitized Manuscripts from the Matenadaran||The Մատենադարան, the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, is the largest repository of Armenian manuscripts in the world. Some of them are digitized and available here.|
|houshamadyan.org||A “project to reconstruct Ottoman Armenian town and village life,” this website hosts a huge amount of pictures, maps, and articles about Ottoman Armenia.|
Beyond books and manuscripts, there are many interesting and important resources for the Armenian Christian tradition and Armenian Studies online. Previously, we have mentioned the wonderful work of houshamadyan.org, a “project to reconstruct Ottoman Armenian town and village life.” Drawing on the houshamadyan genre of books published about specific regions and villages in the aftermath of the Genocide, houshamadyan.org contains not only photographs, but articles on the customs and Armenian daily life in the Ottoman Empire. Project Save, based out of Watertown, MA, works to save any and all photographs related to Armenian life. While many are of early Armenian immigrants to the United States, the project is wide-ranging in what it accepts. Some of the 45,000 photographs they have digitized are available on their website. Related to these projects of reconstruction and memory is the Columbia Oral History Project, which has dozens of interviews with Armenians, especially Genocide survivors. Many of these are accessible online. For even more Genocide survivor accounts, you can refer to Gerard Libardian’s recently published “Research Guide to Oral Testimonies,” available on e-SAS, “Entries of the Society for Armenian Studies,” a new online publication of the Society for Armenian Studies under the editorial direction of Dzovinar Derderian.
Resources related to art, architecture, and music are also available online. Some of these are quite interactive and creative. Armenian artists and scholars and slowly exploring the possibilities of the digital medium. You can explore the famous city of 1001 Churches, Ani, at virtualani.org. In An article from the Smithsonian Magazine describes the app, “My Virtual Armenia,” taking this idea of a virtual tour to another level. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles provides digitized versions of over 300 of its publications at its “Virtual Library,” including some related to Armenian Art. The Orthodox Art Journal has a wonderful Orthodox Illustration Project, providing lovely black and white images you can download. These would make great drawing or even coloring projects! In the musical realm, there are now many online radio stations dedicated to Armenian music, perhaps most famously Yerevan Nights. Here is a list of Armenian radio stations online. For broader “Middle Eastern” music, taqs.im brands itself the “Gateway to Middle Eastern Sound.” And the Library of Congress, a great resource for all the kinds of media we have been discussing, has digitized and available many early recordings of Armenian folk music.
For Armenian liturgical music, there are few better resources than ones related to our own Diocese and the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. St. Nersess’s Liturgical Resources, especially its Sacred Music Lab, contains a wealth of information, including transcriptions, translations, and recordings of Armenian liturgical music. Similarly, you can find many resources online related to Armenian Sacred Music at the website of the Eastern Diocese’s Sacred Music Council. This leads us to our final emphasis on the resources closest to home and our appeal to continue to support the work of the Zohrab Information Center and the Eastern Diocese. “Back to the Sources” is an initiative of the Zohrab Information Center, under the umbrella of the Diocesan Ministries project VEMKAR. VEMKAR, as you surely know, is full of wonderful and creative resources, and the work of the Diocesan Ministries team has produced incredible online resources like the Bread and Salt videos. Recently, after a generous donation of a document scanner, the Zohrab Information Center has begun to digitize many of the texts and periodicals in its collection that have not been digitized elsewhere. For instance, the St. Nersess Theological Review, the academic theological journal of the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and the only Armenian theological journal in English, was recently digitized and will shortly be available on the St. Nersess website. As the coronavirus pandemic has made abundantly clear, digital resources in Armenian Christianity and Armenian Studies are crucial. The Zohrab Information Center strives to increase those online digital resources.
Finally, as we approach the final days of Lent and begin Holy Week leading into Easter we encourage you to explore the many brilliant new online, digital, and remote methods of liturgical services being developed by the clergy of the Eastern Diocese. In addition to livestreamed services, clergy have developed wonderful and innovative projects such as “Faith in the Fiery Furnace” with its first episode of “Communion in Quarantine.” The Youth Ministries Department has a robust set of programs in their initiative #StayHome and #StayConnected. Check the Eastern Diocese’s website and Facebook page for online services during this trying time.
Follow the Zohrab Information Center on Instagram @zohrabcenter to see examples of some of these great online resources! Don’t forget to like us on Facebook!