(note: the time stamp of all posts and comments on this blog is the time in umm el-fahem, israel)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

6 july, back home and still catching up (no. 4, national history museum)

22 june -- guess i am still jet lagged. this should have come before no.3. oh well.
i also may be misremembering the dates. after spending a few hours at the naregatsi gallery that included an opportunity to discuss my work with a reporter from the russian language golos armeni
newspaper (voice of armenia) at 4 pm i ran to the history museum of armenia in republic square (the building also houses the national gallery of art, which i did not have the time to see). (image taken from web. for sense of the scale, know that the entrance door is UNDER the white arched area in center of the photo)
this was my first experience of being accompanied (a few steps behind...) by an older woman playing the role of official watcher and responsible for operating the lights. i.e., the lights each room/gallery in every museum (except for the cafejian) were turned on for me as i entered a room and turned off as i left that room. this gesture magnified the harsh economic conditions and the dearth of foreign tourists. it was quite sobering.

the collection of the national history museum is ethnographic, anthropological, archaeological, cultural and historic in nature. the collection is not large but gives one a good sense of old (greater) armenia: its longings, its touchstones. the point of view is quite clear. wall text is in armenian, with some russian and some english text along the way. the museum visitor walks from gallery to gallery following the development the of the roles of christianity, neighboring forces/states, the genocide are accompanied by rugs, national dress, jewelry, lace,... acquainting one with armenia of the 20th century.

i felt that the national character of the country and its people has historically been defined as a national longing. in armenia the tensions between this nostalgia and memories, a push toward seemingly reckless gentrification to attract investors and the push of young armenians coming of age in a melded world dance around and jab at each other, yet the need (as described to me by many within the art and university worlds) by the diaspora for this nostalgia and shared memories remains a force to be reckoned with.

to be continued

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