On a bright day in April, the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan was buzzing with youthful energy. The Institute, more commonly referred to as the Matenadaran, is a bastion of Armenian history, boasting an impressive collection of over 100,000 manuscripts, books and documents from as early as the eighth century. But on that day, it was not the glory of the past, but the promise of the future that was on display.
This promise was pinned on the eight young researchers who had gathered in the hallowed halls of the Matenadaran for a ceremony in their honor. These bright specialists of art history, art theory, world history and historiography were selected to be the first recipients of an AGBU-funded scholarship organized in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Armenia and the Matenadaran. This program is designed to provide young researchers with the financial support they need to preserve and restore the precious examples of Armenian cultural heritage housed in the Matenadaran and to make use of the Institute’s wealth of resources in their own research.
Among the attendees gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of these gifted young minds were prominent figures in the political and cultural circles of Yerevan, including Hrachya Tamrazyan, the director of the Matenadaran; Manuk Mkrtchyan, the deputy minister of the Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia; Ashot Ghazaryan, the vice-president of operations at the American University of Armenia as well as the former director of AGBU Armenia; Vardi Keshishyan, the head of the international relations department at the Matenadaran; and Vahan Ter-Ghevondyan, the head of the Arabic manuscripts research department at the Matenadaran.
At the awards ceremony, Hovig Eordekian, the interim director of the AGBU office in Armenia, congratulated the students and emphasized AGBU’s enthusiasm for the program. Addressing the crowd, he commented: “When the Matenadaran’s leadership first approached AGBU with the idea for this partnership, we did not hesitate to pledge our support. We knew it would strengthen an already productive partnership between our organization and the Institute, one that is of strategic importance, because it promotes the development of Armenian studies in Yerevan and globally.”
The recipients of the AGBU scholarships—Hrant Ohanyan, Anoush Sarkissian, Vera Sahakian, Ovsanna Keshishian, Narek Hakobyan, Sona Baloyan and Siranoush Fahradyan—will work in a variety of capacities at the Matenadaran. Some will devote their efforts to study and preserve Armenian and Arabic manuscripts in the art history and manuscript centers, while others will lend their expertise to the Institute’s digitization and cataloguing projects.
This new scholarship program is one of the many ways AGBU has supported the Matenadaran over the years. In the 1990s, when the fledgling Republic of Armenia was plagued by an energy crisis following independence, AGBU and its benefactors helped the Matenadaran install the air conditioning, fire prevention and security systems it needed to protect its resources. AGBU has also sponsored a number of the Madenataran’s publications, including the third volume of its catalogue of manuscripts, which was published in 2007.
Upon receiving his certificate, scholarship recipient Hrant Ohanyan commented on the great impact that AGBU scholarship will have on him and his fellow academics. Holding his award, he said, “AGBU’s assistance is not merely financial. It shows us that our work is critical to the Matenadaran and to the field of Armenian studies as a whole. We are so proud and excited that AGBU has decided to invest in us and our research.”
AGBU’s investment represents not only its commitment to the professional successes of these budding scholars, but also its commitment to instilling a deep appreciation for Armenian history and culture in the generation that will lead the Armenian community into the future.