New Book Launched – A Legacy of Armenian Treasures Celebrated in Michigan

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SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — On Thursday, May 16, more 250 people gathered at St. John Armenian Cultural Hall to celebrate the publication of A Legacy of Armenian Treasures: Testimony to a People — The Alex and Marie Manoogian Museum. The book features more than 160 of the museum’s objects, each reproduced in full color and accompanied by a detailed entry. Each of the book’s nine chapters was written by a scholars of Armenian art and artifacts and sheds light not only on the artistic significance of these objects but on their cultural context as well.

The evening began with an Armenian “book blessing” ceremony by Rev. Garabed Kochakian, assisted by Deacon Rubik Mailian (both of St. John Armenian Church). Individuals directly involved in the book participated in the service.

Edmond Y. Azadian, executive editor of the volume and moderator of the program, introduced those involved in creating the book: Editorial Coordinator Sylvie L. Merian (also author of the Illuminated Manuscripts chapter and others) — and truly the scholar’s scholar; museum director Lucy Ardash, who worked non-stop on the project; Dr. Levon A. Saryan (author of the Ancient and Medieval Coins chapter); Publishing Consultant Alice Nigoghosian (formerly associate director, Wayne State University Press).

Azadian also acknowledged manuscript editor Cynthia Newman Edwards (editor of many museum catalogs); award-winning book designer Mike Savitski (Azadian noted that his design was more Armenian than the work of many Armenian artists); and Robert Hensleigh who provided the meticulous photography. Azadian expressed appreciation to Eugene A. Gargaro Jr., a long-time supporter of the project, along with benefactor Richard Manoogian — whose support never wavered through the 10 years of research and writing.

A brief history of the museum was provided by Azadian: “The museum was opened in 1992 and was built by the late Alex and Marie Manoogian. Bishop Paren Avedikian (former pastor of St. John) worked closely with Mr. Manoogian in acquiring many of the objects for the Museum, to develop content, and steer the construction of the Museum. It holds one of the most representative gatherings of art and artifacts outside Armenia.” Azadian acknowledged that a letter of congratulations on the publication of the catalog had been received from Hasmik Poghosyan, Armenia’s minister of culture, recently reappointed to a second term. She is looking forward to hosting a similar book launching event in mid-September in Yerevan at the State Museum of Arts.

Azadian is an advisor to the Ministry of Culture.

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An unusual highlight of the evening was the presentation of the book’s original colophon written and read by Sylvie L. Merian, a librarian at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. She explained that the colophon was written in the spirit and style of a medieval Armenian colophon, where the scribes would describe their challenges and frustrations, “with only slight exaggeration,” while requesting prayers for their families and the sponsors of the manuscript or book. The scribes would refer to themselves in an insulting manner — describing themselves as “vile scribes” and as “so-called scholars” was fairly typical language. She mentioned that communications on the Manoogian book via letter and e-mail exceeded 40,000 between all involved — and that this was certainly not an exaggeration! The colophon usually included mention of recent historic events — in this case, references to 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. The unusual presentation with subtle humor and a scholarly touch was appreciated and enjoyed by an attentive audience.

Azadian then introduced Richard Manoogian, chairman of the Armenian Apostolic Society and benefactor of the book, presenting him with a special dedicated book, signed by all involved in its creation. Manoogian thanked Azadian for bringing the book to fruition and offered his congratulations and appreciation to all those involved in completing the book. He recalled many memorable occasions with his parents at the Cultural Hall and stated that “my parents would have been extremely proud of this moment in the museum’s history.” An elegantly prepared reception of wine and cheese, Armenian hors d’oeuvres and desserts followed in the beautifully decorated ballroom. The crowd enjoyed the convivial and lively atmosphere of book buying and signing, with many guests also taking advantage of viewing the Museum, lingering late into the evening.

The book of nine chapters, 336 pages, in sequence: “Illuminated Manuscripts and Printed Books” by Dr. Sylvie L. Merian; “Ceramics” by Amy S. Landau; “Inscribed Rugs” by Vahram Tatikian with Dr. S. Peter Cowe; “Ancient and Medieval Coins” by Dr. Levon A. Saryan; “Paintings and Sculpture” by Dr. Garabed Belian, D.D.S.; “Ancient Objects” by Dr. Alina Ayvazian and Dr. Felix I. Ter-Martirosov; “Garments, Lace, and Embroidery” by Sylvie L. Merian; “Sacred and Religious Objects” by Dr. Amy S. Landau and Dr. Theo Maarten Van Lint; and “Practical and Personal Metal Objects” by Dr. Sylvie L. Merian.

For more information about A Legacy of Armenian Treasures, to view sample pages, and to purchase on line, please view www.iupress.indiana.edu

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