BELMONT, Mass. — The National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) will undertake a $2.5 million renovation of its aging building to transform it into a welcoming hub for scholars and Armenians and non-Armenians alike. Since its purchase in 1989, the NAASR headquarters building has served as a place where scholars of Armenian Studies have come for support and research in NAASR’s unique library holdings, and for connection with members and the public over lectures and symposia. NAASR’s Mardigian Library has grown to become world-class as one of the top five libraries open to the public in the diaspora while its building has remained virtually unchanged and is in drastic need of repair.
The new headquarters will be an open and attractive setting to host scholars, authors, historians, journalists, students, people interested in genealogy and family history, and the public to study in NAASR’s Mardigian library, connect with each other, share ideas, and develop innovative projects for Armenia and the diaspora. The library will welcome visitors and students from grade school on up.
NAASR has been working with a team led by Ara Krafian at the architecture, design, and engineering firm of SMMA in Cambridge.
The renovation will advance NAASR’s ability to reach Armenians globally, as well as safeguard its rare collection of over 27,000 books (projected to increase to 40,000 in the next decade) in a dry, climate-controlled setting; create a welcoming event hall, bookstore, lounge café, study area and scholars’ conference room where scholars, authors, students, and the public can connect; and make all three floors accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). NAASR welcomes visitors and students of all ages to touch and turn the pages of rare books over 100 years old, and to study, side by side, texts written in completely different alphabets and languages, such as Armenian, Arabic, Persian, and English from NAASR’s collection.
This is an opportunity for NAASR to advance its mission fostering Armenian Studies and building community worldwide to preserve and enrich Armenian culture, history, and identity for future generations. Founded over 60 years ago in 1955, NAASR achieved its ambitious goal of advancing Armenian Studies by raising funds to help endow the first chairs at Harvard and UCLA, and supporting endowed positions at other universities. NAASR has greatly increased awareness of Armenian contributions to world culture and civilization, and the place of the Republic of Armenia in the world. And NAASR’s work has helped to lay the factual foundation upon which Genocide recognition rests, and led to a new generation of scholars, historians, and authors, who rely on NAASR for academic research and global connections. NAASR currently sponsors more than 40 programs around the country each year, supports Armenian Studies scholars with research and grants, has a world-class rare book library, and is the top distributor in the world of books in English on Armenian topics.
The NAASR Board of Directors reached this decision after careful study. A significant portion of the renovation cost will go toward making the building ADA accessible. There is no comparable property in the area to purchase with similar lot size and square footage at the same or lower cost. The plans include: new glass-walled garden lobby and solarium; new elevator serving all three floors; expansion of event hall capacity to 150 people; expansion of library to all floors; dry, climate-controlled environment to preserve rare collections; new antiquarian book and map display area; new listening room for the diverse collection of Armenian music; new viewing and preservation areas for unique special collections and rare periodicals; new AV technology for worldwide broadcast of lectures; new scholars’ conference room; inviting space for bookstore and adjoining lounge café; and expanded study and research space for scholars and members.
The building transformation coincides with NAASR’s plans for programming. NAASR is developing a Contemporary Topics Series, supported in part by the Gulbenkian Foundation; is exploring Global Armenian Studies relating to the Armenian experience, identity, and history worldwide; and is developing an Innovator Series, presenting Armenians at the intersection of art and technology through the ages.
NAASR will also increase grants for Armenian Studies scholars in the US, Armenia, and internationally; facilitate research assistance to scholars off-site and around the world requesting digital copies of rare materials in NAASR’s Mardigian Library, which they are unable to access anywhere else; and explore hosting NAASR Fellows from Armenia or elsewhere to conduct research and interact with each other and with local scholars in this academically rich region.
NAASR continues to increase global electronic access to its resources and has, to date, posted on its website 500 of the nearly 1,700 titles in its bookstore for sale online. NAASR’s Mardigian Library catalogue is searchable online through the NAASR website; and NAASR has uploaded to its YouTube channel, Armenian Studies, dozens of lectures for viewing. Past issues of the NAASR Newsletter are also available for viewing online through its website.