Archival Collections
Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Columbia Armenian Oral History Archive, 1968-1977 

Creator: 
Parsegian, V. L (Vazken L.). collector
Phys. Desc: 
3 sound recordings: (3 sound recordings: 245 sound discs 210 hrs. digital ; 4 3/4 inches 2 record cartons)
Call Number: 
MS#1480
Location: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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Biographical Note

Vazken L. Parsegian was born in Van, Turkish Armenia in 1908. His father Sahag has immigrated to the United States in the year 1912 while mother served as a cook in the hospital ran by Dr. Clarence Usher. In the summer of 1915 joining the hundred and thousands of refugees fleeing Turkey from the massacres, arrived Yerevan (capital of Armenia) and in October 15, 1916 settled in Chelsea, Massachusetts. As with many emigrants filled with enthusiasm and eagerness to succeed, he began to work as mechanic in a car repair shop. Later, following to an advice from a teacher who had brought his car, he attended the Lowell Institute School. Upon graduation he applied for study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT (B.S., 1933) was followed by studies in nuclear physics at New York University (Ph.D., 1948). His first twelve years were in industrial research and engineering departments. Then for nearly five years he was Director of Research with the New York Operations Office on the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. In 1954 he joined Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as Dean of the School of Engineering, and in 1961 was appointed to the distinguished Chair of Rensselaer Professor to develop interdisciplinary educational programs. Dr. Parsegian was closely involved with national nuclear policy issues, including a debate with Admiral Lewis L. Strauss, head o f the Atomic Energy Commission, on the harmful effect of secrecy ("The New York Times Sunday Magazine" of October 14, 1956). He served nine years with the nuclear and science committees of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of formulation of national policy on atomic energy, with appearances before the joint Committee on Atomic Energy of the Congress. He as been Consultant to the colleges of the State University of New York, and to the General Electric Company's project on nuclear power for aircraft. On invitation from President Victor Hambartsumian of the Academy of Sciences of Armenian, in 1962 he was an Exchange Scientist of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. He Served with the Visiting Committee of the Department of Psychology of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was a member of the Central Committee of the Armenian General Benevolent Union of America for many years. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation. In 1967 he and his friends founded the Friends of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with which he has served as President and Honorary President to the present time. Dr. Parsegian has published many articles and books. He was Consulting Editor for an Academic Press series on Nuclear Science and Technology, and for the Journal of College Science Teaching. He directed a large project which produced textbooks that integrated the physical and life sciences in two volumes (Introduction to Natural Science, Academic Press, 1968, 1970). He is the author of "Industrial Management in the Atomic Age" (Addison Wesley, 1965), and "This Cybernetic World" (Doubleday, 1972) which was translated into German and Japanese editions. He is listed in the marquis Who's Who in the World, World Who's Who in Science from Antiquity to the Present, and others. He became Rensselaer Professor Emeritus in 1975, but continued at RPI on various Armenian Projects. In 1966 with Friends he had organized the Armenian Educational Council inc., and has served as its Chairman to the present time. The Council initiated an Oral History project with individuals who had survived the massacres. When in 1970 he met Dr. Armen Haghnazarian of the Germany group called Research on Armenian Architecture the two organizations initiated a twenty year international project to assemble and archival collection on Armenian Architecture. Centered at the School of Architecture of RPI, the project is now completed, with the collection holding 42,999 photographs and documentation in microfiche, on some941 sites and monuments in Armenia, Turkey, Karabagh, Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan, Iran Georgia, and the Crimea. Its seven volumes are resource for research in over 100 major research libraries of Europe in the United States. The Council is currently engaged in seeking international protection for the monuments that remain in Turkey, and in aiding the scientific and industrial development of Armenia. In his Human Rights & Genocide, 1975: the Hope, the Reality and Still the Hope book he discusses Human Rights violations against Armenian nation.

Scope and Contents

The Columbia Armenian Oral History Archive is an important collection of audio and video recordings of first-person accounts of the early and recent experiences of Armenians, recorded after they had immigrated to the United States. The Archive's featured collection consists of extensive 142 interviews in Armenian, English and Turkish languages with immigrants conducted by Vazken L. Parsegian during the 1950s and 1960s, focusing largely on the survivors' memories of their personal experiences of the abduction, deportation, imporisonment and massacre of Armenians and the destruction of Armenian communities under the Ottoman Empire in the first decades of the Twentieth century. The testimonies also recount the early formation of Armenian communities in various cities of United States and socio-economic conditions.

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