LOS ANGELES — The UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology has received a $2 million gift from UCLA alumna Zaruhy Sara Chitjian to establish the first permanent research program in Armenian archaeology and ethnography at a major American university.
Chitjian also donated a significant collection of artifacts, documents and books related to the history and material culture of Armenia and to the Armenian diaspora after the Armenian Genocide of 1915–23.
The Hampartzoum and Ovsanna Chitjian Collection and Archive of Armenian Ethnographic Artifacts and Documents, named in honor of Chitjian’s parents, will be housed at the Cotsen Institute and digitized, giving scholars around the world access to this important resource.
Gregory E. Areshian, assistant director of the Cotsen Institute, has been appointed director of the new Chitjian Collection and Research Program.
The gift will enable an expansion of research projects in Armenian archaeology and ethnography, the establishment of a public lecture series, and the publication of scholarly works on the Web and in print. It will also fund seminars and graduate-student conferences devoted to topics in Armenian archaeology, anthropology, ethnography and history and to the preservation of the cultural heritage of historic Armenia and the Armenian diaspora.
“The collection represents a set of objects and letters that will provide an invaluable insight into the Armenian diaspora,” said Charles Stanish, director of the Cotsen Institute. “Each acquisition not only provides insight into a small portion of this tragic but heroic drama but also provides a window into dozens of new questions and areas of inquiry. We hope that the Hampartzoum and Ovsanna Chitjian Collection will be a model for others to emulate.”
A retired schoolteacher, Chitjian earned her bachelor’s degree in child psychology and her teaching credential from UCLA. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work and for her dedication to Armenian issues, past and present.
She continues to fund research and student scholarships throughout the world. In 2003, she published a memoir of her father’s experiences as an Armenian genocide survivor and his journey to safety on foot through eastern Turkey.
More than 1 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed during and after World War I, when the Ottoman Empire systematically exterminated and removed Armenian subjects from their historic homeland in territory that constitutes part of the present-day Republic of Turkey. The majority of Armenian diaspora communities were founded as a result of this genocide.
Chitjian also funded the establishment of Aramazd, The Armenian Journal of Near Eastern Studies, the first Armenia-based, English-language, peer-reviewed international journal on the archaeology, ancient and medieval history, and linguistics of Armenia, the Caucasus, Iran, Turkey and the broader Near East.
“With the work at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, the Armenian identity and Armenian people — past and present — can be respected and appreciated for the contributions of their 3,000 year history,” Chitjian said. “Studying the ethnographic artifacts of recent age is an important means of understanding the past of this still thriving culture.”