A Historic Armenian Map’s Restoration Journey During the Pandemic

Nichole S. Gehr
A reduced-resolution graphic of Mardiros Kheranian’s restored 1922 map of historic Armenia

For a long time, each individual time I was in the fourth flooring convention space in the Hairenik developing in Watertown, Massachusetts, I would stare at a substantial map on the back wall. The 5’ x 8’ map was hand-drawn by Mardiros Kheranian in 1922. People of us lucky to have noticed this map could not enable but be drawn to it and be transported to the several Armenian villages it discovered. Kheranian’s map is even extra of a cultural and creative treasure in a planet where by the Turkish governing administration has tried to wipe the names of these villages from modern day maps.

Cartographer Mardiros Kheranian (Photograph: Matthew Karanian)

Kheranian was born in the area of Van and lived most of his lifetime in Aykestan, a neighborhood just outside the house the town walls of Van. He was a cartographer and trainer at the famed Armenian monastery of Varakavank. He participated in the defense of Van in 1915 and, after the tumble of Van in 1918, he fled south and took refuge in Syria, exactly where he ongoing to build maps of Armenia. Other individuals in his relatives fled to Yerevan, to France and to the US. 

We do not know the exact selection of maps he made in the course of those people decades, but quite a few other people are accounted for. These contain a 37 x 56 inch map of the defense of Van metropolis which is shown at the Nationwide Museum in Yerevan and reproduced in “The Armenian Highland: Western Armenia and the Initially Armenian Republic of 1918,” a ebook published 97 years later by his wonderful-nephew Matthew Karanian. At minimum 3 other maps of Van are accounted for and in non-public palms in California, in accordance to Karanian’s study.

Kheranian’s other maps of historic Armenia that are identified to have survived the Genocide are held by the Armenian Apostolic Church in Echmiadzin, the Detroit Azadamart Gomideh of the Armenian Groundbreaking Federation (ARF), the ARF Museum in Yerevan and users of Kheranian’s relatives. Each individual of these maps is significant format. The edition held by Kheranian’s descendants was developed in 1928 and measures 42 x 66 inches. The Hairenik map is the oldest and premier of all those recognized to exist.

About the many years, I experienced taken many pictures of the map with my digital camera, none of which were satisfactory. The ailment of the map, its big dimensions and the glare from the protecting glass covering it made it hard to photograph. At some position in its heritage, the map experienced sustained drinking water harm. In addition, the fabric map experienced been stretched and stapled to a piece of plywood, which was not suitable from a preservation perspective. 

At the commencing of very last year, I contacted Levon Avdoyan, the now-retired Armenian specialist at the Library of Congress to seek his advice on conserving the map. He advised I achieve out to the Harvard Map Library.

As a result of the Harvard Map Library, I was place in call with Louise Baptiste of Paper Conservator. On the eve of the pandemic, we ended up ready to fulfill at the Hairenik and examine restoring the map. The aim was to restore the harmed portions, cleanse the map of all damaging chemical substances amassed above the a long time and make a superior-resolution archival quality scan of the map. Louise identified the worth of the map and enthusiastically took on the job.  

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When the day came to acquire the map out of the frame and roll it up for transport, I was anxious. Louise delicately taken out the staples and placed the map concerning the required sheets and precisely intended roll to assure its secure-keeping. For the initially time in a long time, the map still left the Hairenik creating.

The map transported to start the restoration process

Over the previous yr, Louise painstakingly restored the map to its original grandeur. Together the way, she shared pictures and videos of the function currently being carried out on the map. The course of action was complex. She created specific screens to enable for vacuuming the map with no resulting in damage. In addition, she had to uncover the correct mix of chemicals to clean the map without removing the primary ink. A yr later on, the map, now restored, was introduced to the Harvard Map Library for scanning.

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Robert Zinck, a photographer for the Electronic Imaging and Photography Companies division of Widener Library at Harvard College, made use of a 100 megapixel digicam (one particular of the maximum resolution cameras on the market currently) to get 8 individual images of the map. The map’s dimension essential this quite a few illustrations or photos in buy to retain the preferred resolution. There are then two strategies to be a part of these photographs to recreate the map in its entirety. The chosen way is to “stitch” them together so that the ensuing total impression is seamless to the viewer, without the need of any misalignment, distortion or tone/shade difference involving sections. If this was not attainable, then the pictures would have to be tiled. Stitching is most easily accomplished with material (these as paper) that can keep on being flat and steady. With linen there is the chance of the fabric stretching or misaligning involving scans. We were being very lucky that with our map, stitching proved possible and the benefits are phenomenal!

The map has now been returned to the Hairenik, awaiting the new frame that will protect and preserve it. The total challenge was designed possible by grants from the Armenian Cultural Association of America (ACAA) and the Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Basis. The digitized map will be produced freely accessible by way of Houshamadyan: A venture to reconstruct Ottoman Armenian city and village life

Download the four site, special insert appearing in the June 5, 2021 challenge of the Armenian Weekly.

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George Aghjayan is the Director of the Armenian Historical Archives and the chair of the Armenian Innovative Federation (ARF) Central Committee of the Japanese United States. Aghjayan graduated with honors from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science diploma in Actuarial Arithmetic. He accomplished Fellowship in the Modern society of Actuaries in 1996. Following a profession in both equally insurance and structured finance, Aghjayan retired in 2014 to concentrate on Armenian relevant research and initiatives. His key location of focus is the demographics and geography of western Armenia as well as a keen curiosity in the concealed Armenians living there these days. Other topics he has written and lectured on contain Armenian genealogy and genocide denial. He is a board member of the National Affiliation of Armenian Research and Investigation (NAASR), a regular contributor to the Armenian Weekly and Houshamadyan.org, and the creator and curator westernarmenia.weebly.com, a website devoted to the preservation of Armenian culture in Western Armenia.

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