Armenian Studies Program Hosts Reception to Mark Official Opening of Printing Exhibit
Left to right: Prof. Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Dr. Kevork Bardakjian, Dr. John Welty, Dr. William Covino, Dr. Vida Samiian, and Dr. Sergio La Porta.
Photo: Nabil Sakib
On Sunday, October 14, members of the San Joaquin Valley Armenian community, and Fresno State students, faculty, and administrators, converged in the Henry Madden Library for a reception marking the official opening of the exhibit “The 500th Anniversary of Armenian Printing.” The event was sponsored by the Armenian Studies Program, the College of Arts and Humanities, and the Henry Madden Library.
A year-long flurry of events has been taking place around the world to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Armenian printed word. Attendees not only learned of the significance of the rapid adoption and application of the movable printing press technology by Armenians, but also of the generation of a new literary tradition. This momentous milestone began with the printing of the Urbatagirk [Friday Book], a book of prayers printed in 1512, by Hagop Meghapart in Venice.
“The books and manuscripts on display gave those who viewed the exhibit an opportunity to see how the advent of printing was an important moment in Armenian history,” stated Prof. Barlow Der Mugrdechian. “The Armenian Studies Program was pleased to organize such an exhibit for the community.”
The catered reception took place just outside the Peters Ellipse Gallery, on the second floor of the Library, where an exhibit of rare printed books and manuscripts drew onlookers into the history of Armenian printing. The event attracted the presence of Fresno State President Dr. John D. Welty; Provost Dr. William Covino; Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities Dr. Vida Samiian; and Armenian Studies Professors Barlow Der Mugrdechian and Sergio La Porta, as well as keynote speaker Dr. Kevork Bardakjian (Marie Manoogian Professor of Modern Armenian Literature, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor).
Those who joined the festivities, a plentiful mix of students and community members, were treated to short speeches by all of the aforementioned academic figures during the reception. Professor Kevork Bardakjian addressed the audience in a formal presentation following the reception.
The speeches and exhibit emphasized the value of Armenian Studies to the Fresno State community. “The event was absolutely lovely and I know I felt absolutely enriched,” said community member and former Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School principal, Sophie Mekhitarian.
The exhibit was organized through the efforts of Professor Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Coordinator of the Armenian Studies Program, and Malina La Porta. From the various examples on display, it was apparent that printing developed rapidly for the Armenians, from published works originally written in Armenian to translations of the classics and then the works of western literary figures.
The quality of the exhibit “adds luster to the Armenian Studies Program... one of only a few such programs in the United States,” stated Provost Covino, commenting on the efforts made toward preserving the Armenian culture through artifacts.
The Armenian Studies Program is a “real treasure,” stated Provost Covino. But its real value is the community members who take the time to expand their own knowledge by taking the opportunity to attend an event such as this.