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Talk / Lecture

Vital Matters: Traces of Humanity–The Armenian Cultural Legacy in Los Angeles

February 17, 2022 | 11:00AM - 12:30PM


The Gladzor Gospels, one of the most iconic Armenian illuminated manuscripts, is on view in the exhibition Communication Systems in a Global Context. Penned in the 14th century at Gladzor Monastery (Siwnik Province, Armenia), it underwent numerous upheavals, mirroring the shifting fate of the Armenian Diaspora: it was captured by Tamerlane from an Armenian princess, kept hostage by him until the family rescued it, subjugated to the forced exodus of Armenians to Isfahan in the 17th century, brought to America, and donated to UCLA by Dr. Caro Minassian in 1968. Now safely preserved in UCLA Library Special Collections, this manuscript bears witness to Armenian diasporic histories and the cultural legacy of thriving Armenian communities in Los Angeles. 

Museum professionals and scholars will gather for a virtual tour, exploring the Gladzor Gospels and other Armenian devotional works preserved at three institutions in Los Angeles: UCLA, the Getty Museum, and the Ararat-Eskijian Museum. The program will celebrate Armenian cultural legacies preserved in the City of Angels, with the speakers discussing how cultural and educational institutions can collaborate to honor the inspirational histories and experiences of the Armenian diaspora.

This program is presented in partnership with the Ararat-Eskijian Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum and UCLA Promise Armenian Institute.

Vital Matters: Stories of Belief is generously supported by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Maggie Mangassarian Goschin has served as Director of the Ararat-Eskijian Museum for the past 24 years. In this role, she has turned the museum into a world-class cultural and educational center that houses authentic Armenian heirlooms. She takes pride in the museum’s recent expansion, which includes three libraries, a rare archival room, and a periodical room for students, researchers, and scholars in the field of Armenian Studies and the Caucuses. Goschin continues to advance the museum’s collection, encourage families to actively participate in the preservation of Armenian history, and foster their appreciation of family heirlooms.

Amy Landau is Director of Education and Interpretation at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, where she oversees programs, educational initiatives, gallery interpretation, and co-leads the Fowler initiative “Engaging Lived Religion in the 21st Century Museum.” Landau is also Director of “Art, Religion and Cities” at Morgan State University, which she co-founded in 2018. Landau previously served as Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Islamic and South & Southeast Asian Art at the Walters Art Museum (2009-18). In 2017, she was a fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership. Landau lectures and publishes on representations of religion in museums, early modern cultural exchange, and the Armenian community of New Julfa. 

Elizabeth Morrison is Senior Curator of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. She received her PhD in the History of Art from Cornell University and began work at the Getty in 1996. During her 25 years there, she has curated numerous exhibitions, including Imagining the Past in France, 1250-1500 in 2010 and Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World in 2019. She has published on both Flemish and French illumination and has served on the boards of the International Center of Medieval Art and the Medieval Academy of America. She is currently the Vice President (Governance and Nominating) of the Association of Art Museum Curators.​​

Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh is Professor of Art History at the University of California, Davis. She researches the visual cultures of the Middle East. Her book The Missing Pages: The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript, from Genocide to Justice (Stanford University Press, 2019) is the only one to win awards from both the Society for Armenian Studies and the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the J. Paul Getty Trust, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Fulbright-Hays, among others. Watenpaugh is a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation as well as a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar.

Vital Matters: Stories of Belief
Vital Matters programs explore objects that arouse devotion, awe, or serenity; mediate relationships between human and spiritual realms; and are of vital importance to the cultural heritage of individuals and communities. This series accompanies the new digital educational initiative Vital Matters: Stories of Belief—a platform for sharing different perspectives on material expressions of devotion at the Fowler Museum.

Image credit: L: Principal scribe and artists of figurative miniatures unknown, except for T’oros of Taron (Gladzor Monastery, Vayotc Dzor, Siwnik Province, Armenia), The Gospel According to Mark [Gladzor Gospels, page 189], 1300-1307; vellum, pigment, gold leaf; UCLA Library Special Collections, Collection 2089, Armenian MS 1 and 170/466; Gift of Dr. Caro O. Minasian, 1968. C: Flabellum (Ceremonial Fan, Kshots). Ararat-Eskijian Museum. In memory of Yeghisapet Khatun. Donated by Mister Tuma to the Akhtamar Holy Cross Monastery of Van (1240-1791AD) R: Mesrop of Khizan, The Nativity with the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Magi. Leaf from a Gospel book. Isfahan, 1615. J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 118.

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