Community Comes Together to Learn About Historic Salmast

Left to right: Laura Atoian and Sarkis Barkhoudarian present a plaque of appreciation to Professor Peter Cowe
Left to right: Laura Atoian and Sarkis Barkhoudarian present a plaque of appreciation to Professor Peter Cowe

Left to right: Laura Atoian and Sarkis Barkhoudarian present a plaque of appreciation to Professor Peter Cowe

GLENDALE—The community came together on March 13 at the Glen Arden Club at the invitation of the Salmast Heritage Association, whose leaders provided an update of the organization’s local and international projects.

Board Chair Sarkis Barkhoudarian welcomed a hundred guests and introduced Board members. While, Co-Chair Laura Atoian conducted a PowerPoint overview of the organization’s many accomplishments, dating back to its inception in 2015. She thanked Professor Peter Cowe for giving SHA a “home” at the UCLA Narekatsi Chair for Armenian Studies.

Atoian communicated her appreciation for the initiation of the first ever academic course on Salmast, which was taught by Dr. Marco Brambilla during the 2018 Spring Quarter.

She elaborated on SHA’s research projects, which take place at seven international research/academic institutions: Cambridge University, Politecnico di Milano, Yerevan State University, Armenia’s Academy of Sciences, Tabriz University, the Matenadaran, and Iran’s Organization for Cultural Preservation.

She then invited Professor Cowe to speak about his collaboration with researchers at the Matenadaran, the projected UCLA o publication, and his department’s plans for offering an expanded course on Salmast in 2020.

Marco Brambilla Ph.D, SHA Head of Research, spoke about his recent presentation at the International Conference on Heritage as a Builder of Peace, in Florence, Italy, where he discussed Salmast monuments, and the potentially positive impact of restoring historic sites for creating harmony and improving the surrounding community’s quality of life.

He then shared photos of four Salmast Field Expeditions, conducted by Professor Boriani of Politecnico di Milano, with collaborators from Tabriz University, and Professor Farhad Tehrani of Iran’s Organization for Cultural Preservation.

Dr. Brambilla gave explanations about historic Salmast, showed monuments in ruins with their 3D reconstructions by SHA, and specifically emphasized the distinctive architectural styles of Salmast churches throughout the centuries, concluding his presentation with a short video of drone photography showing Salmast monuments in their current state of near destruction.

Our special guest, Professor Farhad Tehrani who is spearheading Salmast preservation with the collaboration of the Iranian government, spoke about the importance of protecting centuries-old Salmast religious sites and urban monuments, held by Iran’s largest Christian minority group.

Dr. Marco Bramilla (center left) in conversation with Dr. Rubina and Neshan Peroomian (center right)

Dr. Marco Bramilla (center left) in conversation with Dr. Rubina and Neshan Peroomian (center right)

Barkhoudarian and Atoian formally presented and read messages on plaques of appreciation to Dr. Cowe, Brambilla and Tehrani.Atoian also shared a letter of commendation sent from Politecnico di Milano’s Department of Urban Architecture, thanking Dr. Marco Brambilla for decades of contributions to the research and documentation of Salmast/Historic Armenia, dating back to his expeditions in the 1970s with the famed Italian architect, Adriano Alpago Novello.

After a quick break, Atoian, presented a two year budget with detailed explanations about financing SHA’s current projects: the English translation of Allis Hovhanisyan’s “In Raffi’s Footsteps,” recipient of Armenia’s 2018 Book of the Year and Author of the Year Awards; the completion and publication of the Salmast Dialect book by Cambridge Linguistics Professor Bert Vaux; future expeditions to Salmast; the second UCLA course in 2020, and the very first Salmast Conference at Yerevan State University on September 6 and 7 of this year.

The budget presentation generated a full sponsorship for the translation and prompted several other guests to offer pledges of support for specific projects.

As a non-profit organization, SHA’s fund-raising arm is always at work, and in that spirit, we invite readers to consider honoring or memorializing loved ones which will be acknowledged in the dedication section of SHA sponsored books. We also invite the business community to consider the benefits of international exposure for their enterprise by sponsoring the Salmast Conference in Yerevan, and having their company name appear on all printed as well as electronic communications related to the conference.

Mihran Toumajian, Director of West Coast Armenian Assembly of America, Inc. expressed deep appreciation for the existence of an “elite” research and education organization such as SHA, stressing the importance of keeping history alive for future generations of Armenians everywhere.
Ambassador Armen Baibourtian Ph.D, Consul General of Armenia in Los Angeles, offered an eloquent message of thanks to SHA and to all the dedicated individuals whose generosity contributes to a better-informed Armenian community. Sarkis Barkhoudarian presented dedicated copies of “In Raffi’s Footsteps” to Mr. Toumajian and to Ambassador Baibourtian, thanking them for valuing SHA’s mission, for their presence and resonating messages of support.

The warm ambiance of the event continued well into the night as guests kept socializing, enjoying delicious food and drinks, experiencing a unique Virtual Reality Tour of a Salmast church, and receiving gifts of the 2019 Salmast Heritage calendar.

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