On Tuesday, Asbarez Editor, Ara Khachatourian, in an article (Diaspora Ministry’s Affront to the Diaspora 3/13/12) criticized the Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum, which was unveiled this week by Armenia’s Diaspora Ministry.
The editorial board of the Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum sent an email to Asbarez in response to the article, the translated text of which is presented below:
Dear Mr. Khachatourian:
We are happy that you have visited the Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum and we are grateful that you are following the activities of the Diaspora Ministry. For us every remark, opinion and criticism is very important.
However, we are saddened that our undertaking was characterized as an “insult” to the Diaspora. Our ministry was created to cooperate with the Diaspora and make the Diaspora’s voice heard, and not to insult it.
We highly appreciate the Diaspora’s role in preserving the Armenian heritage and in the creation of the independent Armenian state. The Diaspora Ministry of the Republic of Armenia is open to address any issue with the representatives of the Diaspora. For us, constructive criticism is acceptable; criticism, which is directed at the betterment and not insulting or diminishing an effort.
During our more than three years of existence, we have attempted to establish relations with all communities of the Diaspora, all organizations, educational and cultural centers, editorial boards of publications and individuals. We inform [the public] about the ministry’s activities, among them plans for the Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum, through Armenia’s diplomatic representations, Armenian religious structures and pan-Armenian organizations. Let us also state that in informing about any program, we stress that we are ready to cooperate and accept criticism and suggestions about programs.
As it relates to the Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum Web site, we would like to state the within the parameters of the site, we will not engage in academic arguments about the creation of the Diaspora, its definition and other theoretical issue, because that is a matter to be addressed through other methods.
Political assessments about the Armenian Diaspora and developments in Armenia-Diaspora cooperation are pointed out by the President of the Republic of Armenia. This serves as a basis in organizing our activities.
As for the factual errors, inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the site, we would like to stress that every day work is being conducted on the site, and through your suggestions we will correct each mistake and inaccuracy, and advance the technological capabilities. It is imperative to have cooperation in order to achieve all that. We are ready to cooperate with all those who have the desire to work together.
Taking into consideration your criticism that the Armenian press has not been incorporated in the site, we would like to stress in all the sections that introduce the communities all Armenian media have been presented. Aside from that, we greatly appreciate the role and significance of the Armenian press in our national reality and we have planned to dedicate a separate page about the press, for which our ongoing efforts have been intensified. If you have concrete suggestions about this matter, we would gladly take it into consideration.
We are confident that any project will benefit from the appropriate coordination of efforts and the proper guidance of resources.
Editorial Board of the “Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum”
EDITOR’S RESPONSE: An Asbarez reader asked me why I did not enumerate examples of the inaccuracies and the inconsistencies in my article. My response was that to begin such delineation would require that I revamp the entire content of the Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum Web site, a task that did not fall under my purview.
The point I was making in my piece was that perhaps all i’s should have dotted and t’s crossed prior to unveiling this site. After all this is not a middle-school project but an effort from a government ministry. Imagine if the State Department goes live with a site and asks the public to fill in the blanks. Twenty years after Armenia’s independence, its government should be sophisticated enough to consult the proper people and compile factual information before presenting it to the public. This site is not for internal consumption only, but reflects our country and our nation. Perhaps a beta version should have been unveiled and circulated for comments and corrections, before fully launching the site.
Furthermore, this attitude of “we’ve attempted to do something good and instead of criticizing come and help us,” is for a bygone era. We, as a nation, are passed that. Hence my assertion that “the Diaspora is not a slogan to propel the creation of a haphazard Web site whose content is more an embarrassment than a showcase of our rich Armenian national heritage.”
This is not a game. The ministry cannot throw a ball in a court and expect those who want to play to converge around the ball. If the Diaspora Ministry is to be taken seriously, their rhetoric, which during the three-plus years of its existence has been patronizing at best, must change.
The letter to Asbarez clearly states that the Web site “will not engage in academic arguments about the creation of the Diaspora, its definition and other theoretical issue, because that is a matter to be addressed through other methods.” This means, that the masterminds of this effort are unwilling to identify the purpose of this endeavor and are content to have simply created a repository of facts and figures, not all of them correct.
The assertion that plans about the Virtual Museum were conveyed through “Armenia’s diplomatic representations, Armenian religious structures and pan-Armenian organizations” is simply false. Neither the Consulate General of Armenia in Los Angeles, nor the Prelacy or the Diocese have brought this plan to the attention of the public. For that matter, neither did the Diaspora Minister, Hranush Hakopyan, during a press conference last September in Los Angeles discuss any plan for a Virtual Museum.
I stand by my initial conclusion that “It is the Diaspora Ministry’s responsibility to rectify this situation by immediately taking it down and, if the ministry is truly committed to creating this important repository, bring together experts to work on creating a Web site worthy of our national aspirations.”
Leaders of every organization mentioned in the Web site should diligently look at the information and accordingly respond to the ministry.
Nevertheless, I do appreciate the Editorial Board’s response. Perhaps, this can create a healthy discourse through which the real mission of the Diaspora Ministry will be identified, because until now that mission has been vague, if not nebulous.