Armenian Library and Museum of America

Infobox Museum
name = Armenian Library and Museum of America

imagesize = 200
map_type =
latitude =
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established = 1971 to 1985
location = 65 Main Street, Watertown, Massachusetts
type = Armenian
visitors = 3000/annually
executive director = Mariam Stepanyan
curators = Gary Lind-Sinanian and Susan Lind-Sinanian is textile curator
website = [ ALMA website]

Armenian Library and Museum of America, or "ALMA", located in Watertown, Massachusetts, has the most extensive collection of Armenian artifacts in North America and is billed as a place "where Armenian culture comes alive". [ [ Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) ] ]


In 1971, alarmed by the growing loss and destruction of Armenian books and artifacts brought to this country by immigrants from Armenia, a group of talented Greater Boston Armenian-Americans banded together to form ALMA to collect and preserve these books and artifacts. From humble beginnings in two rooms rented in 1972 in a church parish house in Belmont, ALMA grew and expanded into a Watertown church's 4,000 square-foot basement and opened to the public in 1985.

In 1988, ALMA was able to buy and remodel the former Coolidge Bank and Trust Building at 65 Main Street in Watertown. After being opened to the public as the Armenian Library and Museum of America, the building was dedicated to the memory of Stephen P. Mugar and Marian G. Mugar, his wife.

Building description

ALMA's present home is a four-story building plus basement containing approximately 30,000 square feet. ALMA occupies all of the basement, the first and second floors, most of the third floor and has its library on the fourth floor. The building also houses the United States offices of the Armenia Tree Project, as well as the Armenian International Women's Association ("AIWA") and Project SAVE Armenian Photographic Archives.

Museum facilities

Bedoukian Hall is ALMA's main exhibit gallery. There are several smaller side galleries as well as the Contemporary Art Gallery and Terjenian-Thomas Art Gallery on the 3rd floor. Other facilities include the research library, studio space, offices, meeting rooms, classrooms, a 220-seat auditorium and a gift shop.

Museum collections

Armenian Museum of America (subdivision of ALMA) holds one of the largest and most diverse holding of Armenian cultural artifacts outside of Armenia. The Museum maintains an active program of changing exhibits for the public to provide new experiences for returning visitors and to showcase the wide range of materials in the collection. The museum averages 14 different exhibits annually.

As a repository for heirlooms, the collections now represent a major resource for Armenian studies and for preservation and illustration of Armenian heritage. ALMA is the only independent Armenian museum in the diaspora funded solely through contributions of individual supporters. An active board of trustees and volunteer base augment the museum’s four-member staff.

The collections contain over 20,000 artifacts, including:
* Countless artifacts including prehistoric, Urartian, religious, ceramic, medieval illuminations and various other objects;
* Over 5,000 ancient and medieval Armenian coins;
* Over 3,000 textiles: ALMA has one of the largest Armenian textile collections outside of Armenia. The trained textile curator, Susan Lind-Sinanian, has acted as a textile consultant to various institutions. The textiles are housed in climate-controlled space in the basement of the building. There they are also photographed, documented and cataloged.
* 930 rare books; and
* 170 Armenian rugs many of which are inscribed in Armenian. The collection includes the Arthur T. Gregorian collection of Armenian inscribed rugs which he donated in 1992.

** [ Who Are the Armenians Exhibit] "3000 Years in 30 Minutes" Now on Display


Armenian Library of America (subdivision of ALMA) is home to the Mersop Boyajian Library. The Library contains over 26,000 cataloged titles on a wide range of Armenian subjects. The earliest is the Garabed Gospel of AD 1207. The library has one of the largest collections of important books on oriental rugs, and a very substantial collection, which continues to be expanded, on the Armenian Genocide. It also holds a significant number of periodicals.

The library is home to the Herbert Offen Oriental Carpet Research Library Collection, one of the most extensive collections of literature on oriental carpets in the United States. The Offen Family's generous gift includes both the books in the Herbert Offen Collection, as well as funding of acquisitions of new, recently published and antiquarian works related to the literature of rugs and carpets.

The Herbert Offen collection of over 2,500 volumes extends beyond the narrow focus on the types and development of Oriental rugs, and encompasses broader issues including the social implications of rug collecting, symbolism and theory, care and aesthetics, the commercial marketing and business of rugs, economic and domestic structures in carpet production, historical and contemporary use of rugs, and other textile traditions closely related to rugs.

Oral history collection

In the early 1970s ALMA embarked on an extensive program of interviewing survivors of the Armenian Genocide, all or most of whom are now deceased. These tapes are digitized and de-noised. ALMA's collection consists of over 1,400 hours of recorded oral histories and is a fertile source for research by scholars.


*Museum Hours
**Thursday evenings 6:00 - 9:00 PM
**Friday and Sunday afternoons 1:00-5:00 PM
**Saturday 10:00 AM-2:00 PM
*Administrative Offices are open Monday-Friday 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM.

**Non-Members: $5/person
**Students: $2/person
**Members and Children under 12: Free.

*Library Hours
**Library is open on Fridays 10am-1pm. Otherwise, researchers or students can call ahead to schedule research/study sessions.

ALMA In the News

In 2008 ALMA hosted two major collaborative events in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, and to raise awareness of all the Genocides of the 20th century and the ongoing Genocide in Darfur. The following are two links to the articles in Boston Globe.

Joint Genocide-Holocaust Exhibit " [ "Tragic Bond" by Erica Noonan, Boston Globe 01.13.2008] "

Genocide Committed, Genocide Denied, Genocide Repeated " [ "Watertown center helps survivors tell their stories to following generations" by Erica Noonan, Boston Globe 04.20.2008] "

Cultural Programs


Once a month, ALMA's Contemporary Art Gallery gets transformed into an intimate music hall. A circle of light in the middle of the dark gallery highlights the stage area with the musicians. Twenty candle-lit round tables encircle the musicians. With the first strokes of the piano, the gallery is filled with enchanting jazz tunes. Whether it's the established jazz musicians like John Baboian, Jerry Bergonzi and Joshua Davis, or relative newcomers like Vardan Ovsepian, Karen Kocharyan or the MUSANER group, the technique is superb, the performances – unique, and the public reception – overwhelmingly positive.

Each time the audience is presented a distinctly different type of jazz. Armenian tunes and instruments dominate in one concert, while the guitar and Latin tunes dictate the beat in the other or the saxophone fills the gallery with soulful tunes in the third. Even the audience is different: ALMA regulars, Berklee students, random jazz fans, and Watertown residents. Young or younger, Armenian or not, all sharing the same affection for jazz. If you haven't already done so, it's time to "tune in."

Early 2007 ALMA announced the commencement of the Jazz concert series "Jazz Nights at ALMA". In the spirit of supporting cultural events and local artists, the series features Armenian musicians performing diverse Jazz arrangements. Since the inception of the series, eight different groups have performed at ALMA, each of them offering a unique repertoire. The series gives an opportunity to Armenian musicians to introduce their music to the community, while jazz fans discover Armenian folk music through the musicians' masterful arrangements.

"Jazz Nights" has become the venue to debut new CDs or for inaugural performances of newly-formed groups. Groups like LUSIN and MUSANER push the boundaries of folk-Jazz music through original arrangements of Armenian folk music with elements of Jazz, while other groups like Hye Fusion and K&S World Jazz offer a dynamic synergy of traditional melodies and rhythms with middle-eastern instrumentation.

ALMA members are encouraged to take advantage of the special 50% discount on the jazz tickets if they purchase tickets for three concerts in advance. Tickets can be purchased either by phone 617.926.2562 or at the door (membership card is required for the special discounted rate).

The series has been sponsored in part by the Wainwright Bank & Trust Co.

** Classical Music Concerts 2008

ALMA started a series of classical music concerts in 2008 featuring Armenian musicians or the music of Armenian composers.

** Educational and Art Programs for Children

Family Day Once a year, in late February or early March, ALMA opens its doors for those seeking family fun and entertainment full of singing, dancing, story-telling, and arts and crafts.

Other Children's Programs

ALMA also hosts presentations of CDs, DVDs, Books and other educational materials for children. The library hosts a story-hour for children of different ages, featuring either Armenian story-books or colorful books illustrated by the artists exhibiting at ALMA's Contemporary Art Gallery.

ALMA collaborates with area schools, hosting field-trips, school programs, as well as joint exhibits featuring the works of the young artists.


ee also

* Armenian-American
*Oriental rug
*Urartian language

External links

* [ Armenian Library and Museum of America website]

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