Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Armenian Library and Museum of America

The The Aremnian Library and Museum of America (ALMA), in Watertown, MA, has always been one of my favorite destinations. It is conveniently located in Watertown Square on several bus routes and near some very reasonable eateries. Its hours are limited so it is best to check in advance before planning a visit. It is a welcoming space and many of the exhibits change over time, so it is always fun to return and see what is new. Today the curator was kind enough to chat with me, despite the fact that he was very busy preparing for the opening April 20th of "Armenian Rugs and Weavings: Textiles of Heart and Hearth."

The third floor features contemporary art. One floor down are the permanent exhibits including some unusual musical instruments, a subdued memorial to the Armenian Holocaust, and two paintings by Dr. Jack Kevorkian. The first floor has rotating exhibits of textiles and clothing. On a previous visit wedding attire was featured. This time it was "Undercover Armenian Textiles of Bed and Bath". Some wonderful old maps were on display although I must confess that my knowledge of the geography of the area where Armenians live and have lived is limited.

Much of the first floor space was being prepared for the rugs to hang there. I would like to return this summer and see them in their glory. Today there was a children's event upstairs. On other visits I have seen meetings on the third floor in session. The ALMA seems to be an active center, but the Museum itself usually has fewer visitors than I would expect considering the quality of its contents. As I was leaving, a family announced that they had just driven down from Toronto. They wanted to know if the Museum could be kept open after closing time for them. The busy curator who had just taken time to answer my questions, said that he would be working late, and of course they could stay late as well. I owe him a thank you note. I hope that the family from Toronto thanks him as well. The biggest Museums in Boston lack the charm of smaller institutions such as this one.

3 Comments:

At April 15, 2006, Blogger readerr said...

What I know of the Armenian community in the US is its keen interest in preserving their history and distinct culture. One aspect of this is the Armenian alphabet, which is very different from our Greek and Latin letters.

The mention of paintings by a physician better known for his controversial medical actions is certainly unusual. I wonder if this is a sideways acknowledgement of his role in the assisted suicide movement?

 
At April 16, 2006, Blogger histfan said...

I actually asked the curator of the Museum several questions about Dr. Kevorkian. Honestly, I would have liked to continue asking more questions, but it seemed to be an emotional issue for the curator.

Besides painting, Kevorkian is a musician, an amateur composer, and a polyglot. The exhibit focused on his art and not on his role in assisted suicide. There was a several paragraph biography that barely mentioned it.

I admire Museums that mount controvertial exhibits. The ALMA had to hire extra security for the exhibit and they were boycotted by some groups. The curator met the Doctor before he started his jail sentence. He did not express any opinion for or against assisted suicide. My impression was that the curator felt that Kevorkian was the only Armenian who was well known by the general American public. The exhibit was an attempt to highlight other facets of the Doctor.

 
At April 16, 2006, Blogger readerr said...

Thanks for the explanation.

 

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