The Time Traveler

Matenadaran guide Naré Vardanyan’s quest to preserve Armenia’s historical memory

Born and raised in Yerevan, Naré Vardanyan is a navigator through time and space. With her wooden pointer firm in hand, she guides Armenian and French-speaking visitors to Armenia’s ancient past, through the beautifully decorated books and scrolls on display at the Matenadaran—that monumental repository and research center for ancient manuscripts that sits atop one of the capital’s many hills.

In so doing, Vardanyan perpetuates a family tradition of storytelling inherited from her grandmother. She also keeps alive a love affair with the French language that began in school and would survive well into her university years at Yerevan Brusov State University of Languages and Social Sciences, where she studied to become a French teacher. But above all, Vardanyan is a defender of the memory of Armenia’s rich historical and cultural heritage. “In doing my job, I serve not only myself, but also my country and its people,” explains Vardanyan.

Looking back, her six-week, AGBU-sponsored internship at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, was almost predestined, despite her skepticism about qualifying for the program in the first place. Unbeknownst to her, this experience would be one more stepping stone to her future career as a museum guide. At the Louvre, Vardanyan interned at one of its banque d’information or information centers where she helped thousands of visitors navigate the museum’s many halls and floors. While the centers were a wonderful opportunity to polish up on her French, her short strolls across the museum in between shifts became lessons in Egyptian, Arabian, and other ancient civilizations. 

“At the Louvre, I learned to appreciate the value national museums as windows to history, art, and culture,” she says.

Aside from the professional advantages, Vardanyan’s first stay in a foreign country by herself at 19 also became an exercise in self-discovery. “I needed to find out if I could be independent or not,” says Vardanyan. “Turned out I could.”

Vardanyan’s exposure to the many cultures that populate Paris and its museums also offered her a new perspective on that of her own people. Peeling away the layers of Armenian rich and storied history, Vardanyan recognized the influence of foreign cultures on Armenian traditions, while also deepening her pride in the Armenian Nation’s contribution to all humanity. The Matenadaran is among its most impressive showcases.

Banner photo by Davit Hakobyan

Originally published in the August 2019 ​issue of AGBU Insider. end character

About the AGBU Insider

AGBU Insider profiles extraordinary AGBU program alumni across a diverse set of industries and passions. With exclusive interviews and photography, each issue reveals the Armenian impact on society, community, and industry.