Preserving the Memory of Armenian Genocide Survivors

In March 2023, the Zoryan Institute and AUA Center for Oral History located in AUA’s AGBU Papazian Library, welcomed the AUA community to access the Armenian Genocide Oral History Collection for research, scholarship, and filmmaking purposes. With 780 interviews, spanning close to four hours each and in compilation since the late 1960’s, this is the largest audio-visual testimonies archive of Armenian Genocide survivors, including records of historical events by those who witnessed them, and a precious reservoir of Armenian cultural heritage and aspects of human experiences. The testimonies of the Armenian Genocide are in audio format and already available. 

Speaking to us about the importance of this special project, Library Director Satenik Bella Avakian, remarked, “It is crucial for us to preserve and disseminate these materials to allow students to learn, reflect, conduct research, and present different perspectives. We learn from the experiences of those who came before us, and it is important to present these experiences to the public; these people are the reason why we are still here today and can create, innovate, and make the world better.” 

Satenik Bella Avakian

The archives provide raw data for research, broadcasts, and documentaries in a broad range of social sciences and humanities topics. In addition to students, they are open to the broader community who can access the resources after registering and following specific library protocols to prevent damage to the materials. “I value the fact that AUA has launched this center also because it is open to the public. The successful implementation of this project guarantees that our professors will use these materials in their classes as well,” Avakian said, adding that the materials for the animated documentary film Aurora’s Sunrise released in 2022 were also taken from the Zoryan Institute. Avakian emphasizes that the Zoryan Institute did not give this project to the Armenian Genocide Museum-institute but chose to collaborate with AUA because “this is an educational institution, and aside from research, many students take courses in genocide studies or choose this topic for their capstone projects.” 

In addition to this project, the Center is also working on transcribing and translating testimonials from the 2020 Artsakh War. “We keep receiving new materials, so it will take time  to arrange and transcribe them all,” Avakian elaborates, adding that the task will be carried out by students who will need to be trained to ensure they are prepared, considering the psychological factor that affects the process. “I talked to representatives of the Zoryan Institute about providing funding for the students transcribing the videos, in order to ensure a smooth and efficient process given the immense amount of work involved. If agreed upon, it would greatly speed up the process,” Avakian remarks. In order to make the data available to more scholars around the world, the Center will soon start promoting the archives worldwide, aiming to also translate it into different languages.