WATERTOWN, Mass.—A large crowd gathered at ALMA on the evening of Nov. 15 to learn about a new and exciting variation on an old title, the Houshamadyan Project, presented by project coordinator Nora Lessersohn.
Co-sponsored by ALMA and NAASR, the evening offered an opportunity to hear about the creation of the project and its ongoing evolution. Project director and chief editor Vahe Tachjian works from Berlin with a small team of artists and researchers, joined together by the internet. Gathering and posting information, images, and sounds of a lost world, the Houshamadyan team works to document the daily life, customs, traditions, cuisine and environment of the Ottoman Armenian communities before the genocide.
As Lessersohn pointed out, this is a young project and one which is growing steadily and quickly, thanks to the great interest shown in its work and the regular arrival of new material from its web users. Lessersohn herself became interested in the project through following the thread of her own family history, and the site now features her research on Marash, including a moving lullaby sung by her great-grandfather. The lullaby illustrates the advantages of the web in bringing the past to life.
The website shows a strong roster of international scholars associated with the project as advisors and associate editors. Also important are the designers and artists, under the direction of art director Silvana Der-Meguerditchian, providing a lively and attractive site to explore.
A stimulating discussion followed Lessersohn’s presentation with members of the audience debating the priorities of Armenian studies, both on and off the web. Passionate pleas were made for the translation (into English) of the original Houshamadyan printed volumes, most published in the first half of the twentieth century, encyclopedias of another era. Others questioned why the present Houshamadyan incarnation is raising money to publish a book so soon as they are already having such a large and wide-spread impact through the web. The project received praise and many expressed both interest and support for the team and its work.
Nora Lessersohn is pursuing a master’s degree in Harvard’s museum studies program and she serves as a researcher and project coordinator for the Houshamadyan Project (www.houshamadyan.org).