museum is limited to space in the corridor..
While all around her every morning Yerevan awakens to its dizzy speed
of modern living, Armineh Karapetyan finds her way through the chaos of Mashtots
Avenue and into the past.
Separated from the present she opens the iron door
of a small room and steps along black and white pages of Yerevan. Here carefully
kept in pink boxes thousands of photos portray carriages riding along narrow streets,
the first trams and several big and small houses located throughout the length
of the streets.
Armineh, 43, is one of nine women working in the Yerevan
History Museum, whose working day consists of taking care of the relics of the
past. Inside these walls about 87,000 pieces of history tell the story of a city.
"We have always been searching for things
that had been used by our ancestors," says
Karapetyan, custodian of the photo archive of
the museum. "One must live through this in
order to understand how much we do care for these
For the past 10 years Karapetyan and her colleagues have carefully tended
the artifacts in an obscure, unmarked building in a residential yard. The "museum"
is housed in a former school, since being moved out of its former location where
now stands the Blue Mosque.
Since the mosque and property were given to
the Embassy of Iran, the Yerevan History Museum and the Museum of Nature Protection
have essentially been homeless.
Current plans call for the history museum
to be housed in the municipality building that is presently under construction.
But until then, as for the past decade, there is little chance for guests or residents
to have access to the capital's history.
A year ago, several dozen items
were taken from the museum collection and are displayed on the narrow corridor
of the building. Even in such limited capacity, there is a sense of the richness
of the entire collection.
Two big keys of Yerevan prison of the 19th century,
weapons, the first Armenian brandy named after Tairov and dated 1894, a stone-carved
model of the Catholic Church from the 13th century . . .
antiques are among the historic items.
"The interest in the history of Yerevan has always been high and
keen," says director of the museum Armineh Sargsyan. "Even in such conditions
we have had approximately 900 visitors during one year including schoolchildren,
students, Diaspora Armenians and foreigners."
In October the capital
will be celebrating the 2,785th anniversary of the founding of Yerevan. But at
the museum, visitors learn that the territory of the city was occupied in much
earlier time periods.
According to its director, there are no places besides
the museum where one can get complete information about one of the oldest and
most ancient capitals of the world, Yerevan.
The archeological collection
of the museum contains stone and metal tools, bronze weapons, decorations and
clay artifacts found during excavations carried out in a few districts of the
capital. The skull of prehistoric man is also there. It was found in a cave in
Yerevan (next to Yerevan lake) and, according to archeologist Benik Yeritsyan,
who was conducting excavations in the cave, it has a history of 60-70,000 years.
There are also numerous ethnographic items referring
to history, culture and way of life of the modern
time period (19th-20th centuries) in the museum.
Valuable collection of Armenian fine arts presented
by paintings of Bashinjaghyan, Terlemezyan, Saryan,
Giurjyan and other famous masters is also included
into the number of exhibits representing modern
All these valuables are kept on different floors
of the museum and custodians are taking care of them as carefully as they can,
however there are no hermetic windows, air conditioners or other such equipment
for proper preservation.
"The hard destiny of the museum has also
had its influence on the workers," says custodian
of the section for weapons and clothes, 50 year
old Hasmik Kamalyan. "Imagine a family moving
to a new apartment. It takes time and efforts
to move all the stuff and place them in the new
"Believe me it is much harder to move 87,000
items, especially, when each item has been packed and counted separately."
According to scientific secretary of the museum Hermineh Sargsyan, the
work they do here became their way of life.
Torosyan says the museum's new home will
be a good one..
"We say that if a new employee can manage to work in the museum
for one year then he or she will work here for another 40 years," says 47
year old Hermineh, who has been involved in this field for 25 years. "It
becomes a vocation when independently of your salary you do everything to help
the museum live and exist longer."
The salary of women custodians
is 13,000 drams ($22) and this, according to them, is enough only for covering
their transport charges and drinking coffee during the breaks.
is not a poor salary that brings us to this museum," says 54 year old Leila
Simonyan, who is in charge of the archeology section. "I don't know what
is the reason, however, few people entering this field leave it. Maybe they create
a spiritual relation with the past."
Workers hope that the present
government will keep their promise and provide the museum with the part of the
new building of municipality. (The $3 million structure is scheduled to be completed
Author of the project, architect Jim Torosyan says that it is
a great idea to place Yerevan History Museum together with the municipality in
the same building.
"The new building will have a big yard and its right
and left wings will have constructions connected with high arches. One part of
the building will be taken by the museum. The yard of the municipality must also
be museum's yard, where cross stones and jars demonstrating the history will be
placed and exhibited."
Torosyan, 75, planned the building in 1980.
memorial like this must be dedicated to the 12 historical capitals that had been
wrecked and destroyed and they don't exist these days, however, thanks to Yerevan
they are still alive," says Torosyan.
The five-storied construction will have 12 columns
with memorials. Each of them will have an inscription
on it with big letters of Armenian historical
cities such as Tigranakert, Van, Ani, Vagharshapat,
Kars, Mush. On one part of the building there
will be 60 meter tower for viewing the city and
According to the architect's plan,
the staff of the future museum will have very convenient halls and rooms for demonstrating
exhibits as well as rooms for conducting scientific works of the museum.
am sure that if the museum is next to the municipality the mayor will be paying
much attention to it," Torosyan says.
But it will be tomorrow. And today the destiny
of Yerevan history still depends on nine women,
who in expectations of the better days are fairly
and carefully taking care of every part and detail
representing the history of Armenian capital.