Armenian Genocide Museum of America Mobile-Friendly Website Launched

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WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The Armenian Genocide Museum of America (AGMA) is pleased to announce that as of today its state-of-the-art online museum (www.armeniangenocidemuseum.org) is fully accessible on mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones.

The interactive site, which was launched in April 2015, invites visitors to explore the story of the Armenian people and its fateful experience in 1915. Initially available only for laptop and desktop computer viewing, the online museum is now optimized for mobile devices.

Presenting the Armenian Genocide from multiple perspectives, the online museum highlights the role and extent of American involvement in denouncing the atrocities committed against the Armenian people during World War I and in delivering the humanitarian aid that rescued the remaining survivors from further mistreatment.

The story begins with an exploration of the rich culture of the Armenian people created over millennia to underscore the gravity of the loss of an entire civilization with the destruction of historic Armenia.

This theme has been expanded upon with the preliminary installation of the online museum’s galleries that feature additional information about the richness and creativity of Armenian civilization.  They cover such topics as Armenia’s ancient history, its spectacular architectural heritage, the variety of arts created across the centuries, as well as the tragic record of their destruction during and since the years of the Armenian Genocide.

The enormity of the human losses during the Armenian Genocide is set against this background to stress the relationship that once existed between the Armenian people and their now decimated homeland. It reveals the extent to which the places once associated with worship and celebration, with commerce and education, and the historical memory of significant events from the time of the Armenian monarchies, have been erased from the face of the earth.

By underlining with resonant content the historic identity of the Armenian people, their art and culture, and their perseverance in the face of adversity, the online museum also reinforces the universal message of our common humanity and collective responsibility, and explains why the story of the Armenians and other peoples who have suffered similar fates must be told.

The museum is also dedicated to educating the public about the continuing consequences of the Armenian Genocide. Viewers will learn how the international community’s failure to condemn the genocide and hold the perpetrators accountable made the Armenian Genocide a prototype for later crimes against humanity, including the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, and most recently the Syriac, Armenian, Yezidi, and other minority communities subjected to genocide by the Islamic State noted in the resolution adopted this March 14 by the U.S. House of Representatives.

An educational video introducing the entire online museum explains the Armenian Genocide in the context of a century and more of mass atrocities around the world and examines the role of American leadership in responding to the problem of genocide.

The introductory video, as well as the online exhibits, feature the oral testimony of survivors supported with pictorial and other documentary evidence. The title of the video, “Coming to Terms: The Legacy of the Armenian Genocide,” echoes the expression that became the international theme of the centennial as governments and world leaders joined Armenians around the world on calling upon Turkey to face up to the evidence.

The testimony of other significant figures underscores the world’s reaction and America’s response to the Armenian Genocide with observations by Theodore Roosevelt, Major General James Harbord, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Consul Jesse Jackson, subsequent remembrance day statements issued by sitting presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, supplemented by the striking invocations made by Pope Francis during the April 2015 commemorative observance at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The online museum also confronts the Turkish government’s denial policy by recalling the late Hrant Dink’s heroic role in exploring avenues for creating a common ground for understanding.  Dink was assassinated in 2007.

The launch of the online museum was timed with the centenary of the Armenian Genocide.  It followed the production of a series of digital exhibitsissued by AGMA, the Armenian National Institute (ANI), and the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) over the preceding months.  With these digital exhibits, hundreds of images from the Armenian Genocide and previously unexplored aspects of the Meds Yeghern were brought to light.  These and other resources are also accessible through the AGMA online museum.

In the spirit of cooperation to pay due respect to the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide, many individuals and organizations joined with AGMA in supporting the creation of the online museum and its many components. Among them are the Armenian Film Foundation, Zoryan Institute, Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, and Armenian Studies Program at the California State University in Fresno. They augmented the resources available from the United States National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Republic of Armenia National Archives, and Armenian General Benevolent Union’s Nubarian Library, among others.  AGMA also extends special thanks to film makers Carla Garapedian and Ted Bogosian, as well as historian and geographer Dr. Robert Hewsen.

AGMA also thanks again with particular appreciation the renowned photographer Hrair Hawk Khatcherian whose commitment to documenting the cultural and religious heritage of Armenians across their historic homeland and the diaspora is on display through the magnificent photographs he shared with AGMA and which form such a central part of the visual experience of visiting the online museum.

Joining Hrair Hawk Khatcherian in making the online museum an exceptional experience is the soulful musicianship of Gevorg Dabaghyan, enveloping viewers with haunting melodies from the mountains of Armenia. He continues the unique tradition of composing and playing music on the national instrument of Armenia, the duduk, made from the native apricot tree. AGMA is honored to feature Mr. Khatcherian’s and Mr. Dabaghyan’s exemplary and unequalled artistry.

The AGMA online museum is being produced by the museum planning and exhibit design firm of Gallagher & Associates which has been working with AGMA, ANI, and Assembly staff and board members to bring the concept of an Armenian Genocide museum to the public since the start of the project. Its video production service prepared “Coming to Terms: The Legacy of the Armenian Genocide” under the direction of Michael Buday.

The online museum was primarily made possible by the generous contribution of the Estate of Agnes Kazanjian. Donors to AGMA, Anoush Mathevosian, Hirair & Anna Hovnanian Foundation, Edele Hovnanian, Dr. Sarkis Kechejian, Dr. Nishan Kechejian, the Alice Ohanessian Irrevocable Trust, Julie Kulhanjian Strauch, Noubar Tcheurekjian, and the Trustees of the Armenian Assembly of America, are also gratefully acknowledged.

The project was overseen by the AGMA Online Museum Working Group consisting of Mark Malkasian, Richard H. Papalian, Van Z. Krikorian, and Rouben Adalian under the guidance of the AGMM Building and Operations Committee composed of Van Z. Krikorian, Chairman, Denise Darmanian, Edele Hovnanian, Richard H. Papalian, and Zaven Tachdjian.  The Board of Trustees of the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial, Inc. includes Hirair Hovnanian, Chairman; Anoush Mathevosian, Vice-Chair; and Van Z. Krikorian, Secretary.

The Armenian Genocide Museum of America is a joint effort by the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial Inc., the Armenian Assembly of America, and the Armenian National Institute. Its online museum offers a place for reflection and learning filled with hope, inspiration, and a commitment to eradicating the scourge of genocide through education and a focus on prevention.

‘THE FIRST REFUGE AND THE LAST DEFENSE: THE ARMENIAN CHURCH, ETCHMIADZIN, AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE’

Major Exhibit Issued by ANI, AGMA, and Assembly Available Online

Washington, DC – The Armenian National Institute (ANI), Armenian Genocide Museum of America (AGMA) and Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) jointly, and in cooperation with the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute in Yerevan, and the Republic of Armenia National Archives, announced the release of a major exhibit consisting of 20 panels with over 150 historic photographs documenting the role of the Armenian Church during the Armenian Genocide.

Titled ‘The First Refuge and the Last Defense: The Armenian Church, Etchmiadzin, and The Armenian Genocide,’ the exhibit explains the importance of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin during the Armenian Genocide. It also examines the vital leadership role played by the clergy during the Armenian Genocide, especially the all-important intervention of His Holiness Catholicos Gevorg V Sureniants in alerting world leaders about the massacres, effectively issuing the first ‘early warning’ of an impending genocide.

The sacrifices of the Armenian clergy are well documented. Thousands, among them several primates in Western Armenia and other parts of the Ottoman Empire, paid the price of martyrdom for their faith during the Armenian Genocide. Far less well known is the extent to which the Armenian Church in Eastern Armenia, then under Russian rule, came to the assistance of the Armenian people in its hour of plight.

The exhibit provides ample evidence of the aid extended by fellow Armenians to the refugees fleeing Ottoman Turkey as the Young Turk regime pursued its path toward the destruction of the Armenians. It is now almost forgotten that the first people to come to the aid of the fleeing and starving were Armenians across the Russian-Turkish border who welcomed their countrymen into their homes and threw open the doors to their schools, hospitals, and other facilities to house, care, and feed the hungry, the sick, and the homeless.

At the epicenter of this outpouring of aid was Etchmiadzin, the primary destination of the Armenians fleeing the massacres along the border regions of the Ottoman Empire, especially as a result of the great exodus of the Armenian population of Van. They had dared resist extermination only to find themselves abandoning their homeland, when the Russian forces that arrived to deliver them shortly thereafter retreated. After the slaughter of 55,000 Armenians in Van province alone in April 1915, the survivors, 100,000 in all, concentrated in the city of Van, were left with no choice other than exile. As armed Turkish and Kurdish bands pursued them every mile of their trek across the rugged landscape of mountains, valleys, and rivers cutting through gorges, the exodus turned into the road of massacres.

With testimony from survivors and witnesses, the exhibit reconstructs this particular chapter of the Armenian Genocide, a chapter often overlooked in the context of the mass deportations of the Armenians from all across Ottoman Turkey to the interior of the Syrian desert where hundreds of thousands perished from hunger, thirst, and slaughter. The episode in Van was no less tragic as the death toll was no less ferocious even after thousands seemingly reached safety only to die of exhaustion, fright, starvation, and raging epidemics as the resources in Eastern Armenia were quickly overwhelmed and Etchmiadzin transformed overnight into a vast and fetid refugee camp.

With 3 maps, 12 historic documents and news clippings, and 16 survivor testimonies, specific to the details of the events documented with over 150 photographs, the exhibit reconstructs the Armenian Genocide in a single region of historic Armenia and reveals how the people of Eastern Armenia became aware of the policies of the Young Turks during World War I. The exhibit combines images retrieved from archives and repositories in Armenia and America and connects them together in this first extensive narrative exhibit on the Armenian Genocide.

These dramatic pictures highlight the role of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin during the critical years of 1915 and 1916. They also explain the invaluable national role of Armenian church leaders as exemplified by four of its outstanding catholicoses, namely Mkrtich I Khrimian, Gevorg V Sureniants, Khoren I Muratbekian, and Garegin I Hovsepiants, the first three, Catholicos of All Armenians and the fourth, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.

The exhibit also explores the role of the laity in responding to the appeals of the Armenian Church and reveals how the Eastern Armenian intelligentsia, as represented by figures such as Hovhannes Tumanian, the most prominent writer of his era, and the famed artist Martiros Sarian, closely cooperated with the Mother See in order to assist the Western Armenian refugees.

Numerous other important figures are also represented through photographs and testimony in the exhibit, including United States President Woodrow Wilson, U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, American missionary in Van Dr. Clarence D. Ussher, Prince Argoudinsky-Dolgoroukov, Komitas, Alexander Khatisian, Aghassi Khanjian, and General Andranik Ozanian.

The central role of Near East Relief, the American philanthropic organization constituted in response to the spreading news of the desperate state of the Armenians during World War I, is a subject that has been widely explored due to the availability of extensive documentation and testimony. In comparison, because of the subsequent disasters that struck Eastern Armenia, the role of local Armenian philanthropic organizations operating in the Russian Caucasus that hastened to relieve the plight of the Armenian refugees has been overlooked by historians.

A variety of benevolent groups, local Red Cross committees, and, in particular, the Fraternal Aid Committee, authorized by the Catholicos Gevorg V Sureniants, led the initial responses to the Armenian Genocide. Months before any relief was delivered from overseas, fellow Armenians, medics, nurses, clergymen, and countless volunteers hastened to Etchmiadzin and nearby towns to assist the refugees. This heroic response within a matter of days to the crushing reality of tens of thousands of Armenians made homeless remains a much neglected episode in Armenian history deserving of greater attention. Certainly the photographic evidence gathered in this exhibit attests to the scale of the response and dedication of the Armenian volunteer aid organizations. They were the Transcaucasian counterpart to the Armenian General Benevolent Union operating out of Egypt at the time that reached out to fellow Armenians wherever it could deliver assistance in the Middle East.

The mass of evidence that was gathered for the exhibit required careful examination in order to establish the context of the photographs from that era. The effort to reconstruct this history relied upon historic sites well documented with imagery. For the purpose of this exhibit these primary markers were the famous monastery and school of Varag near Van, where Khrimian Hayrik once presided as abbot; the American missionary station in Van, where Dr. Ussher and his family ministered to the educational, spiritual, and medical needs of Armenians and others who sought their services; the compound of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, at the time still a medieval fortress surrounded by bastions to protect Armenia’s most sacred site from marauders; and the Gevorgian Academy at Etchmiadzin, Armenia’s premier educational institution soon converted into a hospital by Tumanian.

The evidence exhibited was collected from multiple sources including the United States National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Republic of Armenia National Archives, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin Archives, the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, Nubarian Library, Research on Armenian Architecture, and from many other helpful individuals and institutions in Armenia and in the Diaspora. A catalog identifying all the contents of the exhibit is in preparation.

“I am particularly proud to recognize the assistance provided by colleagues in Armenia,” stated Dr. Rouben Adalian, ANI director who created the exhibit. “I take the occasion to thank them publicly, among them Dr. Hayk Demoyan, director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, Dr. Amatuni Virabian, director of the Republic of Armenia National Archives, Sonya Mirzoyan, director of the former State Historical Archives in Armenia, Dr. Harutyun Marutyan of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Armenian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Susanna Hovhannisyan of the Literature Institute of the Armenian Academy of Sciences, Samvel Karapetyan, director of Research on Armenian Architecture, and Dr. Petros Hovhannisyan, holder of the chair in Armenian history at the University of Yerevan.”

“An exhibit of this size must rely upon the anteceding pioneering research of numerous scholars who have issued specialized publications on the Armenian Genocide and related subjects,” added Dr. Adalian. “While the list is long, for the purposes of this particular exhibit, I need to recognize Dr. Dickran Kouymjian and his valuable works on the history of Van province; Rev. Dr. Zaven Arzoumanian who is the continuator of Malachia Ormanian with his contribution to Azgapatum (National [Church] History) covering the era of Catholicos Gevorg V Sureniants; Dr. Benedetta Guerzoni who has completed cutting edge research on the Armenian Genocide era imagery as revealed with the recent release of her book; and Dr. Raymond Kevorkian for his monumental and encyclopedic work on the Armenian Genocide. I also must recognize the invaluable support and participation of the staff of the Armenian Assembly, in particular Joe Piatt and Aline Maksoudian, whose technical skills forged the elements of the exhibit into this impressive presentation.”

Dr. Adalian explained that the pictorial evidence supporting the story of the Armenian Genocide as documented at Etchmiadzin coalesced with the identification of the exact location of a historic photograph taken of the medical volunteers assembled by Hovhannes Tumanian. Thereby the rest of the pictures from that era were assembled in a sequence consistent with the testimony of the refugees, volunteers, witnesses and other contemporaneous records.

“His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II and Archbishop Vicken Aykazian were invaluable in helping create this remarkable exhibit,” added ANI chairman Van Z. Krikorian. “The time to share important, and especially previously undisclosed, evidence on the Armenian Genocide, and the responses to it, is now. We really appreciate the help of the Catholicos, Vicken Srpazan, and other clergy in moving forward. This exhibit also reminds us of another lesson from the past. When so much crumbled in the face of the genocidal violence of the Young Turk government, our clergy and Etchmiadzin served beyond their capacities as an indispensable stronghold of the Armenian people. That is something to be proud of, share openly, and emulate.”

In December 1912, Catholicos Gevorg V Sureniants wrote: “The Armenian Question, which 34 years ago was raised in front of European diplomacy, remains unanswered to this day. If the Armenians are once again ignored, it would amount to delivering an entire people to final annihilation.” It indeed remained for him to issue to the world the first ever genocide alert, in April 1915. With the Armenian communities across Ottoman Turkey utterly devastated and the survivors dispersed across the barren landscape of Syria, Iraq, Jordan and other places where they were left to die, as the Turkish armies advanced upon Eastern Armenia threatening the very extinction of the Armenian people, the great weight of the moment once again fell upon the shoulders of Catholicos Gevorg V Sureniants, whose defiance in May 1918, as the danger neared the very doorstep of Etchmiadzin, inspired the remaining Armenians to rally for a last stand at Sardarapat.

It was also with the authorization of His Holiness Gevorg V Sureniants that Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople Zaven Der-Yeghiayan established April 24 as a memorial day. The exhibit reproduces in translation the encyclical communicating the heartfelt blessings of this great churchman who witnessed so much destruction and continued to stand in defense of humanity and civilization.

Like the exhibit released jointly by ANI, AGMA, and the Assembly in 2013, titled Witness to the Armenian Genocide: Photographs by the Perpetrators’ German and Austro-Hungarian Allies, ‘The First Refuge and the Last Defense: The Armenian Church, Etchmiadzin, and The Armenian Genocide,’ is also being issued in digital format for worldwide distribution free of charge as downloadable posters suitable for printing and display. For those wishing to look at the exhibit in hard copy, the minimum of 11×17 inches page size is required and poster size at 2×3 feet is recommended. The exhibit may be printed as large as 4×6 feet.

As the project neared completion, the specific fate of the Van Armenians was cited by Vazgen Manukian, the former prime minister of Armenia, who, in a meeting with the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, related the following: “I told him the story of our family as an example. My grandfather had five sons when they fled the southern shores of Lake Van. Only one of them, my father, was alive by the time they reached modern-day Armenia…Many other Armenian families can tell similar stories.”

Founded in 1997, the Armenian National Institute (ANI) is a 501©(3) educational charity based in Washington, DC, and is dedicated to the study, research, and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.

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NR# 2014-02

Photo Caption 1: His Holiness Catholicos Gevorg V Sureniants at Etchmiadzin with Armenian orphans

Photo Caption 2: Hovhannes Tumanian with medical volunteers photographed at the entrance to the Gevorgian Academy at Etchmiadzin