Project SAVE Calendars Pave Way Beyond 2015

WATERTOWN, Mass.—Like a true visionary, Ruth Thomasian believes in looking ahead.

Historic images such as this one from Holy Savior Monastery of Ourduz grace the latest calendar published by Project SAVE, courtesy of Daniel Terhanian of Philadelphia.

It isn’t enough that the executive director of Project SAVE prepares one calendar for 2013. She’s also got the next three years well in mind, leading to the Armenian Genocide centennial and beyond.

In some ways, she’s four years ahead in her planning stages. Should all go according to plan, this will bring the number of historic calendars her organization has issued to 30, touching a variety of subjects that include dancing, rugs, music, women, military, and Hye hats, hair, and hands—last year’s idyllic theme that proved extremely popular.

The 2013 calendar, “Armenians a Century Ago: In the Homeland and Diaspora,” gives collectors a diversified glimpse of the lifestyles Armenians experienced during the pre-genocide years.

“You’ll be astonished to see the faces of our people in such a variety of circumstances,” said Thomasian. “Our next three calendars are leading up to the 2015 commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. The year that follows will concentrate on the personal histories of Armenians who lived during these culture-shattering years.”

Of particular interest happens to be the December photo of missionaries belonging to Holy Savior Monastery (Soorp Purgich Vank) of Ourduz, which was 10 miles from Malatia in the Ottoman Empire. Legend has it that there was special water here that could cure many illnesses.

Another illustration for May shows the Modern School for Girls in Smyrna, also in the Ottoman Empire. One of the subjects in the photograph is identified as Marguerite Abroyan (Hazarian) who, at age 16, fled Smyrna for America in 1921, one year before the city was reduced to ashes.

Closer to home is July, which depicts the Armenian July 4th float in Newburyport, Mass., a small seaport town north of Boston. Early in the 20th century, there was a relatively large Armenian population working in the town’s many shoe foundries and shipyards.

With each photograph comes hours and days of research and corroboration by Thomasian and her team of archivists and researchers. Emphasis is also paid to the lives and works of Armenian photographers. Many photo donors have also been documented orally.

For 2014, Thomasian has chosen the working title, “A World Left Behind: Armenians in the Ottoman Empire,” which will feature images depicting Armenians in the old country.

The 2015 theme will focus on Armenian life a hundred years back to honor those lives that were taken so mercilessly, while 2016 will present a look at the relief efforts that helped survivors create new lives for themselves.

“Our aim is to have each one read like a book,” Thomasian points out. “We strive to combine the visual and verbal into history that touches the heart and mind.”

Renewed contacts are made with photo donors when possible to gain more insight into the chosen images. Ever since its formation in 1975, Thomasian has made the project a mission, resulting in well over 35,000 images dating back to 1860.

In and out of basements and attics she has meandered in search of forlorn images—a veritable scavenger hunt for lost treasure.

“In this way, history comes alive and revitalizes our understanding of who we are as a people, as a community, and as individuals,” Thomasian added. “Through photographs, new meaning is brought to our collective lives.”

Calendar sponsors are being sought. For more information, call (617) 923-4542 or e-mail archives @projectsave.org.

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Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
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