To establish and maintain a library and to sponsor programs in the arts and
humanities which disseminate knowledge and information for the advancement of
culture in general, and the Armenian culture in particular.
pursuing this mission, the Foundation shall place emphasis on the history of
Armenian music in the diaspora and on the role of Armenian women in the
nation’s history. Specific communities to be served are (1) academics and
individuals worldwide interested in Armenian culture and (2) bibliophiles and
rare book collectors of noteworthy nineteenth and twentieth century English and
European works in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
Armenian Cultural Foundation is a private library and museum dedicated to the
preservation and enhancement of Armenian history, culture and letters.
Incorporated in 1945 by Vahan Topalian (1886-1983), a well-known Armenian book
collector and by a number of his friends and benefactors, its first home was at
18 Somerset Street -- a three story building in Boston. In 1962 the building
was taken by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, at which time, John Mirak
(1907-2000), an immigrant from Turkish Armenia and successful businessman in
Boston, assisted the Foundation to relocate to its present quarters, a Greek
revival mansion in Arlington, Massachusetts. During 1965 the large addition
overlooking Mystic Lake, which comprises the main library, was completed under
the direction of architect Jerome Bailey Foster.
Topalian was born in Tigranakert, Turkish Armenia, in 1886. He came alone to
the United States as a young boy, attended Mt. Hermon School and then began a
lifelong vocation -- collecting books, memorabilia and objects of art.
Supported by his profession as a tailor, Topalian had already amassed a library
by 1920 and spent the rest of his days in that pursuit. He died in May 1983 at
the age of 96.
of Topalian’s interests was his nation. The Foundation houses the finest
collection in the New World of early Armenian periodicals and newspapers. Also
important are Armenian manuscripts from such modern giants as Vahan Tekeyan,
the poet. Topalian was no narrow nationalist. Rather, he was self-educated; he
thrived in the socialist-anarchist-free thinking currents of the early
twentieth century; and he thought of the Foundation in international terms. He
knew Emma Goldman and Alexander Beekman, the famous American anarchists, and
his heroes included Freud and Darwin. The Foundation is dedicated to the memory
of Eghia Demirjibashian, an Armenian poet, philosopher and mystic. Topalian
(and his shelves) had room for the great writers and thinkers of the past from
all nations. English, French and Russian literature are well represented, often
in first editions. He was proudest of his manuscripts of Rousseau and Voltaire.
And all this had to be housed in stately surroundings, with Oriental rugs and
its inception, the Foundation was governed by a Board of Trustees, although
until the mid 1960s, Topalian was its solitary guide. Then, until 1990, John
Mirak, who was born in Arabkir, Turkish Armenia, and who came to the United
States after the Armenian Genocide of World War I, as an orphan and refugee,
assisted Topalian and the Foundation as its President. Mirak conceived of and
orchestrated the construction of the Great Hall (which was named in his memory
in 2000), he underwrote much of the Foundation’s annual budget, he assisted
Topalian in his personal needs, and he welcomed Topalian in age as a member of
his family. In the 1980s, Mirak also brought Hagop Atamian, another Armenian of
letters, to assist Topalian at the Foundation. In 1997, Mirak and the
Foundation’s Board turned its reins over to a younger, more professional group,
which now runs the Foundation.
new board determined to continue the Foundation’s mission of fostering Armenian
history and culture. In addition it decided to embark on two new initiatives:
the study of Armenian music, especially in the Diaspora, and the history of
Armenian women. In those connections, the Foundation has
all of its holdings;
and distributed to the Armenian scholars and appropriate libraries in the
New World and Old an inclusive bibliography of its Armenian language
its holdings -- compatible with national cataloging standards -- for
inclusion in the internet;
or co-sponsored lectures, concerts and public non-profit scholarly and
charitable gatherings, thereby making the Foundation accessible to the
affiliation with the Armenian International Women’s Association, promoted
AIWA and houses its rapidly growing archives;
the Komitas Room housing the Rouben Gregorian and Arsen Sayan music