GLENDALE—Salmast Heritage Association held a private fundraising event on February 9 at the Glen Arden Club, and gave a comprehensive status report from its inception in 2015 to 2017, covering its activities, accomplishments, and next steps. The main goal of the gathering was to clarify the funding required for two parallel projects: Supporting research for an academic publication on the history and culture of Salmast, and initiating an undergraduate course by the Narekatsi Chair of Armenian Studies at UCLA.
The informal event provided an effective opportunity to meet supporters, to report on SHA’s sponsorship of activities pertaining to the project, to introduce its main partners, UCLA and Politecnico di Milano, and to discuss related research and development ties to Cambridge University in the UK, Azad University in Iran, the State University in Armenia, and last but not least, its collaboration with Organizations for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, in Iran and Armenia. Event Chair Laura Atoian, opened the evening; Board Chair Sarkis Barkhoudarian introduced SHA Board and Committee members, and ceded the floor to the directors of the project, Drs. Brambilla and Cowe.
Principal Project Leader, Dr. Marco Brambilla, captivated the audience’s attention with an impactful Power Point Presentation on Salmast’s geography and architecture, showed a Google map where a multitude of churches and monuments were accurately pin-pointed, and shared photos of research expeditions he conducted in the 1970s, with colleagues from Politecnico di Milano, emphasizing the pressing need for resuming archeological and architectural research in the Salmast region, before humans and the elements, completely destroy crumbling historic sites. He reiterated his views by showing and contrasting photos of the same sites dating back to the 70s, and ones taken as recently as a decade ago. Dr. Brambilla then informed the audience that he is in the process of organizing a Salmast expedition in 2017, and discussed the importance of scientific research methods and options. He illustrated his views with photographs produced with a state of the art “preservation” tool, depicting beautiful and accurate 3D reconstructions of several historic monuments, and emphasizing the power and effectiveness of modern technology in all aspects of archeological research.
Principal Academic Editor and UCLA Narekatsi Chair, Professor Peter Cowe, began his Power Point Presentation with a slide depicting the institutions, as well as the scholars contributing to the project in the US, the UK, Italy, Iran and Armenia. He explained the various aspects of researching and developing the content of the proposed publication, which his department will use to teach a course on Salmast history and culture at UCLA. He established the validity of SHA’s mission by clarifying that Salmast formed part of the territory of Greater Armenia, and shared information about the first Armenian manual of geography dating from the 7th century, clearly establishing the fact that the province of Greater Armenia was named Parskahayk, and the fact that the district of Zarehavan was the territory of Salmast, which was governed by a princely house descended from the first Armenian royal dynasty, the Yervandunis.
Professor Cowe also referred to the dialect of Salmast as a “distinct field of study”, currently being researched by Linguistics Professor Bert Vaux at Cambridge University. In addition, he spoke about construction in stone as one of the “greatest achievements” of Armenia, as it “requires a deep understanding of geometry, physics, and aesthetics by architects and masons operating in a major seismic zone.” He cited the contributions of Armenian builders to the creation of structures for Seljuks, Mongols, the Ottomans and others, affirming that much of this heritage still remains in the Salmast region, and deserves a comprehensive and in-depth study.
In conclusion, Dr. Cowe noted that around the core of the “material culture of Salmast”, subjects like the region’s unexplored history, together with its art, literature, medicine, metallurgy, trade, etc., will be investigated in the proposed academic publication, which will be a major teaching and information dissemination tool for scholars and institutions in the English speaking world. Professor Cowe also shared details about the quarter long undergraduate course, describing it as an overview of the history and culture of Salmast within the broader Armenian and Pers-Armenian backdrop, with the potential for cross-listing to make it accessible to a larger pool of students. Meanwhile, members of the general public would be encouraged to enroll in the class through the UCLA Extension Program.
The last portion of the program was conducted by SHA Vice Chair, Laura Atoian. She spoke about the organization’s concerns, challenges, next steps and financial issues. In addition to a Power Point Presentation, everyone received a separate sheet showing immediate funding needs. She first provided a clear account of monies raised in 2016, acknowledged the efforts of SHA research coordinator, doctoral candidate Andre Maroutian, and indicated that in January 2017, a mere six months later, with the cooperation of researchers at Politecnico di Milano, SHA completed the digitization of more than one thousand Salmast archival documents. She then walked everyone through the various research components and their costs, and clarified that all activities are necessarily overlapping, and moving forward in parallel fashion. She appealed to the audience for their support, reiterating the international interest the project has garnered in major academic institutions, and the fact that it will bring new information to the field of Armenian Cultural History, relevant to ALL Armenians.
Atoian concluded by reiterating SHA’s commitment to the project, emphasizing the breadth and credibility brought to it by UCLA’s Narekatsi Chair and the international scholars mentioned above. Following this last portion of the event, positive responses and pledges of support for 2017, with equal installations in 2018, were voiced, and recorded by Executive Secretary, Mari Sahakian. The friendly and productive event came to a close with words of appreciation offered by Board Chair and Vice Chair, Sarkis Barkhoudarian and Edik Hayrapetian.
SHA wishes to inform readers that in the universe of higher education, scholarly works are supported and funded by academic institutions. The proposed academic volume will be published by a university press such as the Cotsen Institute of Archeology at UCLA. Thus, as no subvention will be required for the publication, funds raised by SHA will cover project management costs such as research assistant, coordinator, printing, field expeditions, transportation, equipment, website maintenance, and more.
Salmast Heritage Association extends its sincere gratitude to all those who came together to listen, discuss, decide, and pledge to support the proposed academic publication, and the initiation of a course on Salmast at UCLA, in 2018. Thanks to our supporters, SHA will be able to keep going forward for the next six months; it must, and will continue to raise funds until its total budget needs are fulfilled, and its main goals are realized. SHA invites the community at large to visit salmastheritage.org, ask questions, and explore the value and validity of supporting this unprecedented “pan-Armenian” research project, the proposed academic volume about the unexplored cultural heritage of Salmast, the potential for worldwide information dissemination, and the first ever course, at a world class university such as UCLA.
Donations to Salmast Heritage Association are tax deductible.