From left, Project Save Executive Director Dr. Arto Vaun with Vartus Varadian

Project Save Celebrates Christmas with Supporters

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ARLINGTON, Mass. — On Sunday, December 4, Project Save Photograph Archive held a Christmas reception at the Armenian Cultural Foundation here to raise funds and display the historic value of the treasure trove the  organization has. Little did organizers know their point would be made so poignantly and literally.

Executive Director Arto Vaun’s talk turned included a slide presentation, the first of which featured Barlow’s Market in Arlington in 1922, with proprietor Sarkis Boyajian and his staff standing outside the store. Vaun noted that not much more was known about Boyajian when a woman in the audience, Mary Ann Kazanjian, shouted that he was her grandfather. The amused and amazed audience was delighted.

Dr. Arto Vaun at the event

Serving as master of ceremonies was photographer Winslow Martin. Explaining his longtime connection with the organization, Martin said that he first met Project Save founder Ruth Thomasian when sent to photograph her on assignment for the Watertown Tab newspaper. That assignment led him to “understand the importance of what they do.”

He added, “The power of the art of photography” is instrumental for “remembering and honoring” the past generations. “Thank you, Ruth, for your undying passion and for creating all of this.”

Thomasian for her part said, “We focus on change. Life changes and that is what our photographs try to capture.” She in turn thanked the Mirak Foundation, on whose premises the program was being held, and Executive Director Ara Ghazarians.

From left, Ruth Thomasian, Dr. Dr. Arto Vaun, Marta Fodor and Margaret Eckstein

Thomasian said she had fully stepped back from Project Save to focus on a book she is working on about the history of the organization and its inception. As for the mission of the organization and her reasons for launching it in 1975, she said, “We focused on change. Life changes and that is what photographs capture.”

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She added with a laugh, “I’ve taken my marching orders from Arto.”

Vaun, who seconded his “deep gratitude” to Thomasian, made the case for photography in general and for Project Save in particular, calling it a form of “time travel.” In fact, he said, the archive is the oldest and largest one of its kind dedicated to Armenian photographs as well as one of the largest and most important photo archives in North America.

According to Vaun, the archive has about 80,000 original images from around the world, with only a fraction archived. The photos that he showed on that day captured an Armenian Student Association outing in New York City from 1912, a wedding in Yokohama, Japan in 1927, and a young dandy relaxing on a balcony in London in 1913.

Ruth Thomasian speaks with Hapet Berberian.

Vaun said that he is trying to change things up, including hosting artists in residence. The organization’s first is Pavel Romaniko, who recently gave an online talk. In addition, Project Save now has an advisory board with ties to local universities and organizations. In addition, there has been an increase in terms of the number of employees and the focus is on growth, especially in light of the organization celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2025, he said.

The archives, Vaun said, are not only of value to Armenians, but to various towns and states, as they capture history.

He also made the case for its own space and an endowment fund. Project SAVE, he said, “has a wealth of images” and needs the “proper space that can draw people” and in addition, have temperature-controlled vaults for the photos. Vaun thanked the Armenian Museum of America in Watertown, in whose building the organization has rented space for several decades.

“I strongly feel that Project Save needs to be more financially secure at this point. Surely, after 48 years of groundbreaking and important work, such an organization deserves a healthy financial endowment for long term growth and sustainability,” he noted.

Several staff members of Project Save were also present, including videographer Noah Brown, photo archivist Marta Fodor and Margaret Eckstein, her assistant.

A reception and silent auction took place after the speakers concluded their remarks.

For more information about Project Save, visit www.projectsave.com.

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