BELMONT, Mass.—The National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) marked the start of demolition of its aging and cramped headquarters on Concord Avenue in Belmont on June 29, in preparation for all-new construction of a first-class, global Armenian Studies center, rare book library, and gathering space for scholars, researchers, and the public, welcoming Armenians and non-Armenians alike.
Edward Avedisian—the lead building donor—was among the NAASR Board members and donors sporting hard hats and wielding sledge hammers to mark this key milestone. The lead building donors are Edward and Pamela Avedisian; Margaret C. and Leon J. Atamian and Family; and Marta and James Batmasian.
Also present were members of the project’s architectural, engineering, and design firm of Symmes, Maini & McKee (SMMA) of Cambridge, Mass., as well as the general contractor, Altair Construction. Cambridge Savings Bank is also partnering on the project.
Plans call for a soaring glass wall extending the full three floors of the new building and illuminating the interior Garden Atrium and third floor Solarium with natural light. A variety of Armenian features are part of the building, including a carved wooden doorway at the entrance incorporating Armenian designs, and an Armenian alphabet wall along the monumental stairway leading up to the event hall. Out front, a perennial garden with Armenian Scilla and other special plantings will create year-round appeal and a dramatic bench engraved with an Armenian inscription will create a spot for reflection.
To date, NAASR has received financial commitments for nearly $5 million of the $6.5 million campaign. “We invite the entire community to become part of NAASR’s inspiring plans for our headquarters and have a lasting way to recognize family members,” said NAASR Board Chairman, Yervant Chekijian. “We are honored and grateful that many generous families have put their trust in NAASR as one of the world’s leading institutions to preserve Armenian history and heritage for generations to come,” he added.
NAASR’s rare book Mardigian Library is one of the top five Armenian libraries open to the public in the diaspora, soon to total 40,000 books, with volumes dating back to the 1600s, and rare periodicals dating to the 1800s, as well as unique personal archives of prominent scholars, early Armenian-Americans, and religious leaders, including Father Krikor Guerguerian’s archive of rare Ottoman documents. The new building will have ample space to accommodate existing holdings and allow for substantial growth, within a secure, climate-controlled environment.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has also given full support with a capital grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Facilities Fund of $225,000 awarded in 2017, primarily for installation of an elevator and other accessibility features under the Americans with Disability Act.
NAASR staff has moved to temporary offices at the AGBU-New England headquarters on Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown. NAASR’s rare book library is in special climate-controlled storage for a year while the building is under construction, although NAASR is operating its bookstore online at www.naasr.org. NAASR continues to offer programming and co-sponsor conferences nationwide during construction at a variety of venues.
Founded in 1955, NAASR is a one of the world’s leading Armenian Studies centers and rare book libraries, promoting education and scholarship through the Armenian experience and connecting scholars of Armenian Studies worldwide with each other and a broad general public to build community and preserve and enrich Armenian culture, history, and identity for future generations. Find out more about NAASR at www.naasr.org. To become a lasting part of NAASR’s new headquarters, please contact Sarah Ignatius, Executive Director, at [email protected] or call 617-489-1610.