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The Armenian Collections of the Library of Congress


Armenia has long been represented in the collections of the Library of Congress. In 1815, after the destruction of the original library collection during the War of 1812, Congress purchased the personal Library of Thomas Jefferson. Greek and Latin classical sources were integral to Jefferson's collection, and Armenia, important throughout classical antiquity, was well represented in those sources.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, the core of the Armenian collections, numbered approximately 26,000 items; it is housed in the Near East Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division, whose beautifully renovated reading room in the magnificent Thomas Jefferson Building offers a calm refuge for those studying Armenia from its beginnings to the present. Manuscripts, early printed books, long runs of periodicals and historical and contemporary newspapers, singular collections of old almanacs from the Armenian Diaspora, political and monographic materials from the Soviet period as well as since independence was proclaimed by the third Republic of Armenia in 1991, are among the many materials available for scholars and researchers.

The Armenian area specialist in the Near East section directs the operations to acquire, preserve, and make available these collections to scholars and researchers. In addition, he also provides in-depth personalized briefings, research guidance, and programs, often co-sponsored by the Library's Office of Scholarly Programs. The Library's annual Vardanants Day Armenian Lecture series is in its ninth successful year, while the quarterly Library of Congress Armenian Seminar, created for those academically and professionally studying the Armenian world, is now entering its fifth year.

Armenian collection bookplate
The pictured bookplate, original designed for use by the Dadian committee, with traditional Armenian iconography and the first six letters of the Armenian alphabet, is placed in Armenian language materials which have been donated to the collections. Donors may indicate that the work was "Donated to the Library of Congress Armenian Collection," either "By ...," "In Honor of .... By ...," or In Memory of .... By ...."

Important manuscript, cartographic, musical, legal, and visual materials, many still unpublished and yet to be studied, are carefully preserved in several divisions throughout the Library of Congress. The Manuscript Division, for instance, is home to the papers of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr., American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during World War I; the Geography and Map Division possesses antique and modern maps, including the originals used to draw the boundaries of President Wilson's proposed mandate for Armenia following World War I; the Music Division houses important scores of classical and folk Armenian music; and the Prints and Photographs Division contains a host of visual materials, including 10 early photographs of Ottoman Armenian sites, deposited by Vartan A. Hampikian in 1922 for copyright registration.

Armenian materials are also entering the digital age at the Library. As only one example, Armenian songs performed by immigrants from Ottoman held Armenia to California and recorded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s have been included on the Library's American Memory page. These songs, with their accompanying photographs, are invaluable to ethno-musicologists, historians, students of ancillary disciplines, and the lay community.

The Near East Section's Armenian language collections and activities were immeasurably strengthened by a significant endowment which Mrs. Marjoire Dadian established from her husband's estate for the health and maintenance of the Armenian collections. Her husband Arthur Hampar Dadian had been interested in the Library's Armenian collections since the late 1940's, when he started the Committee for the Armenian Collection of the Library of Congress. The generous 1991 bequest was increased by an additional gift, this time from Mrs. Dadian's estate, in 1995. In large part, then, the Dadian name remains inextricably tied to the Armenian collections and programs at the Library of Congress.

In addition to ongoing efforts at the Library of Congress and in its Overseas Acquisitions Office in Cairo, Egypt, to acquire new materials, the Library encourages gifts of materials from the public. Through purchase, donation, exchange and other avenues of acquisition, the Library's various collections of Armeniaca continue to grow.
For a more complete description of and illustrations from this collection, see the chapter on "Armenia and Georgia" in Library of Congress Near East Collections: An Illustrated Guide.
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  November 15, 2010
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