Armenian Genocide Museum of America, Near East Foundation Sign Agreement


NEW YORK — The Armenian Genocide Museum of America (AGMA) and the Near East Foundation signed an agreement of cooperation on June 12 at the foundation’s international headquarters in New York City.

Signing the agreement on behalf of the two organizations were Van Z. Krikorian, AGMA trustee and Building and Operations Committee chairman, and Shant Mardirossian, Near East Foundation Board chairman. Also present at the signing were Near East Foundation President Alexander Papachristou, Dr. Rouben Adalian, director of the AGMA, and Dr. Hayk Demoyan, director of the Armenian Genocide Museum- Institute in Yerevan, Armenia.

“This agreement opens a treasure trove of historical Armenian Genocide era documents and artifacts for use in the museum’s exhibits,” Krikorian said. “We are very pleased to be forging a partnership with the Near East Foundation to educate the public on one of the most significant periods of both Armenian and American history.” The Armenian Genocide Museum of America is slated to open in 2010 in Washington, DC.

“The archives of the Near East Foundation house thousands of documents which exemplify the first international humanitarian undertaking of this sort by the American people,” Mardirossian said. “Not only do the archives tell us the stories of countless Armenian orphans, but they deliver them through the journals, diaries, and writings of the Near East Relief workers. This museum, in the heart of Washington, will serve as a tribute to their heroic efforts.”

The Near East Foundation is the successor organization to the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief, which was founded in 1915 and later incorporated as Near East Relief in 1919 by an act of Congress. Near East Relief established and operated orphanages, hospitals and schools throughout the Balkans, Caucasus, and the Near East to ease the suffering of the Armenian Genocide survivors seeking refuge from the Ottoman Empire.

“Near East Relief was at the forefront of America’s efforts to respond to the human suffering that occurred in the wake of the Armenian Genocide,” Krikorian said. “Armenians in the United States and all over the world benefited directly or indirectly from this monumental undertaking.”

According to Near East Foundation records, from 1915 to 1930 the Near East Relief administered $117 million worth of assistance and is credited with saving a million lives and providing vocational training to 132,000 Armenian orphan children.

“Millions of dollars were raised through appeals in the media, at public rallies, in churches and synagogues and in schools,” Mardirossian said. “Not only were funds raised, but hundreds of Near East Relief volunteers were on the ground ministering to the suffering survivors of the Genocide, delivering food, clothing and materials, but most of all comfort and hope. Many risked their lives and several gave their lives for this noble cause. Their stories and memories should be preserved as an example of the American spirit.”

This agreement with the Near East Foundation is the second cooperative agreement AGMA has forged in recent months. In April, the museum entered into a partnership with the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute at the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex in Yerevan, Armenia.

The resources and expertise from the Genocide museum in Armenia and the valuable archival materials from Near East Relief will complement other artifacts and documents to be incorporated in the AGMA exhibits, which are being designed by the Washington, area firm of Gallagher & Associates.

The museum will be housed in the historic National Bank Building in Washington, at 14th and G Streets, NW, just blocks from the White House. When completed, it will be the first international class museum in the Armenian Diaspora dedicated to preserving and honoring the memory of the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide. From 1915-1923 a centrally planned, government-directed campaign subjected the Armenian population in Turkey to deportation, expropriation, abduction, torture, starvation, and outright killings. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians perished and tens of thousands became widowed, orphaned and homeless.

Today, the Near East Foundation operates development projects in seven countries in the Middle East and Africa and is planning a project in Armenia. In 1930, the organization re-defined itself. It gave the schools, orphanages, hospitals, and other facilities that it had founded to the countries where it operated, and it became a pioneer in the field of economic development. Current projects include agricultural innovation
to combat climate change in Mali and Egypt, reforming primary education to include girls in Morocco, and assisting Iraqi refugees to support themselves in new communities in Syria and Jordan. The 100-member field staff all work in their own countries, so the Near East Foundation supports local professionalism while
helping the region’s poorest people.

“We are proud to continue the tradition of American assistance to communities in peril in the Middle East and Africa,” said NEF President Alexander Papachristou. “We rely fully on the expertise and dedication of our colleagues who know best how to organize these communities to solve their own challenges.”

The agreement between the AGMA and the Near East Foundation also anticipates the promotion of each other’s programs and projects. The links to the Websites of the two organizations are www.neareast.org and
www.armeniangenocidemuseum.org.

The Armenian Genocide Museum of America is an outgrowth of the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Institute (ANI), catalyzed by the initial pledge of AnoushMathevosian toward building such a museum in Washington.