By Aram Arkun
BELMONT, Mass. — Many people know the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), based in this suburb of Boston, as a bookstore specializing in English language works on Armenians and Armenian studies, but it actually conducts a much broader range of work in support of Armenian studies.
Founded by Armenian-American academics and concerned community leaders in 1955, it raised funds for the first two endowed chairs in Armenian studies in the US, at Harvard and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) during its first decade of life. It continued to support the expansion of Armenian studies programs in other universities over the following decades. Unlike other Armenian centers in the US, it is not a purely academic center affiliated with a university, nor does it have a staff of academics, but it does provide advice and direction to researchers, as well as the use of an extensive library. It provides grants for Armenological research, publishes books and a journal and organizes conferences and extensive lecture series throughout the United States. It even holds Armenian language classes at its center.
NAASR as an independent institution has a constitution and an elective structure. Its annual assemblies elect in a staggered fashion each year one-third of a 27-person board of directors (at present 24 or 25 people) representing various regions of the country, which in turn elects annually from its members a seven-person Executive Committee. Regional or local chapters are formed in various parts of the country.