The Armenian Museums Abroad
ARTS & CULTURE

The Armenian Museums Abroad

 

The Armenian diaspora has always made a lot of efforts to preserve the Armenian culture and heritage outside of their homeland and make foreigners feel a part of that experience. They always sticked to the mission of raising awareness about our cultural and literary patrimony.  The Museums and Cultural centers built all over the world many centuries ago or recently, from Fresno to Singapore contributed greatly to that mission. Here is a selection of the best Armenian museums abroad that are worth visiting.

Text : Viktorya Muradyan

 

 

William Saroyan Museum, Fresno, USA

On William Saroyan’s 110th birthday the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and playwright’s memory was honored with a meaningful gift. The house, where he lived during the last 17 years of his life, opened to the public on August 31st, 2018 as an interactive museum honoring his legacy and works, as well as the Armenian Community of Fresno. The Armenian-based Renaissance Cultural and Intellectual Foundation acquired the house in the writer’s hometown Fresno in 2015 and undertook the renovation works.

 

As the great writer himself, the museum is also non-conventional, more experiential. The museum doesn’t exhibit a lot of Saroyan’s personal items. Instead, the visitors are able to get engaged with the artworks displayed to have a more profound experience and to have a closer look at Saroyan’s lifestyle. In the house-museum, the visitors can see Saroyan’s hologram standing by his typewriter, his desk setup, as well as an extensive collection of photos, videos, drawings, posters and interviews. In order to give a comprehensive representation of the author’s multidimensional talent, a digital archive was created in frames of the project, including Saroyan’s memorabilia, photographs, paintings, graphics, movies and audio recordings. This is the only museum in the world dedicated to the author’s memory and the first one in the region with its high-tech format. Hopefully, the museum will become a center for Saroyan studies.

Entry to the museum is by reservation, and free of charge.

 

Mekhitarist monastery manuscripts library, Vienna and Venice

The Monastery of the Mekhitarist Congregation on the Saint Lazzaro island in Venice was founded in 1717. At the beginning of the 19th century, the members of the Congregation moved to Vienna from Venice and eventually founded the Vienna Mekhitarist Monastery in 1810. The Vienna Monastery became one of the most prominent Armenian cultural centers in the world. The collection of the Vienna Monastery library includes a collection of more than 10,000 Armenian coins, a considerable collection of paintings, more than 2800 manuscripts. Moreover, it is also a home for over 170,000 volumes of print exemplaires, newspapers and magazines, both old and new. The Monastery in Vienna and in Venice became cultural centers of a great significance not only for the Armenians but also for the whole European continent. Unfortunately, the print house of the Vienna Monastery, which published books in 41 languages for two centuries, is closed now, but the visitors can still enjoy the Congregation’s rich collection of books.

      

 

Musée Arménien de France, Paris

The Armenian Museum in Paris was inaugurated in 1953 by Nourhan Fringhian in the building of the Hotel d’Ennery. It was created with an aim to keep the memory of the Armenians of the Diaspora. The museum closed in 1996, because the building wasn’t meeting the necessary security standards. Since then, the wonderful collection of the museum has been packed in cartons without any exact perspective of being exhibited again. Although the authorities promised to re-open the museum after the renovations in May 2012, they didn’t keep their promise. The proposal to partially move the Museum collection to Marseille was refused by the Armenian side. The museum administration will agree to move the collection only entirely and permanently.

 

The collection of the museum consists of 1200 objects transferred to the Foundation by the descendants of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. These objects illustrate 3000 years of our history. The rich collections include archeological artefacts, series of ancient coins, tissues, ceramics, luxury objects, ornaments, costumes, sculptures and much more. Nowadays, the only option to partially view the museum’s collection is to visit their website, which presents around 500 objects from different eras. Some of the exhibits were presented also in Louvre.

A petition was initiated to save the museum and it has already gained more than 10,000 signatures. But the future of one of the oldest Armenian museums in the world still stays vague and uncertain.

 

Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA), Watertown, USA

The story of the ALMA begins in 1971. Back then, it was just a community of Armenian educators, professionals and businessmen, who started to collect Armenian books and artifacts in a church house in Belmont, Massachusetts. The collection grew rapidly and in 1985, the Armenian Museum of America officially opened its doors to the public. At first, it occupied the basement of the First Armenian Church of Belmont, but in 1988 the founders of the museum purchased and then renovated the current building in Watertown. Watertown is considered as the “Little Armenia” for generations of Armenians living on the American continent. The current museum has four floors and represents a vast set of artefacts covering 3000 years of the Armenian history and culture.

The museum’s collection includes over 5000 ancient coins, 3000 textiles, religious and ceramic artifacts and a library. Hence, ALMA positions itself not as a still warehouse of artifacts and books, but a living place for the Armenian community and for people of all ethnic backgrounds to come together and to discover Armenia’s culture, history and art. It also intends to host education tours and live music events. In 2018, a new gallery called Armenia: art, culture, eternity was presented to the public illustrating Armenia’s linguistic and religious origins with 50 new objects. The Museum collection also includes an extensive compilation of photos portraying the 20th century taken by Yousuf Karsh.

The admission of the museum varies from $5 to $15, but it is free for children and for the museum members.

     

 

The Armenian Museum of Moscow, Russia

The Armenian Museum of Moscow and culture of the nations opened in 2015 on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. It is a museum dedicated to the Armenian history, culture and religion and is the biggest Armenian interactive museum abroad. Located on the territory of the Moscow Church complex of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the North – East of Moscow, the museum covers an area of 1600 square meters. It has 9 expositions, 8 of which are represented through the new and modern technologies. The interactive format of the museum enables visitors to have an immersive experience and understand better the expositions, as well as the whole concept of the museum. Alongside the interactive part, the museum also exhibits documents, household items, posters, ads, photos and other artifacts from the early 20th century, as well as from 0 AD to 1000 AD. The collections include paintings and sculptures, the world’s largest oil painting of Mount Ararat, a big section of the library within the Museum and a section for Armenian iconography. Moreover, it presents a digital database for all the Armenian churches in Russia. The museum also provides space for conferences, presentations, round tables, and has his own cinema with 50 seats.

 

The library’s all items are open to the public use. The library’s collection has a large list of historical documents that are somehow related to the Armenian history in Russia. On the weekends, the museum becomes a religious and cultural education center for the Armenian children in Russia.

 

Armenian museum Singapore, Singapore

Asia’s first ever Armenian Museum opened last year in Singapore. The discussions to create a museum started back in 2005. But the small Armenian community of Singapore was focused on the maintenance of the 180-year-old Armenian Apostolic Church of St.Gregory the Illuminator, which was declared a national monument in 1973. It is the oldest Armenian church in Southeast Asia. There are already several Armenian Museums and Centers in Singapore including the Peranakan Museum, Baba House, Malay Heritage Centre. But the new museum will mark the importance of the Armenian community in Singapore through the presentation of literary and religious exhibits, as well as paintings of “Armenian Streets” across the globe.

 

The organizers also plan to present the chronological timeline telling the Armenian community’s history in Singapore. The collection of the exhibits is still in process. According to some sources, the project costs $1.2 million and is realized in cooperation with the National Heritage Board.