Armenian Mirror Spectator writes that the website for the Houshamadyan project (www.houshamadyan.org), at first glance, seems to provide a colorful depiction of small town Armenian life in the Ottoman era , a forgotten subject in history.
Upon further exploration, however, visitors realize that Houshamadyan is more than a typical website , it is an interactive archive. Viewers do not merely read the history, they experience it firsthand through written documents, images, artifacts, digitized textiles, depictions of traditional games as well as sound and video recordings.
These resources are aimed at enhancing “the visitor experience and helping make the reconstruction of these lost communities all the more vivid.”
Lessersohn’s involvement in the project came in tandem with an exploration of her own familial and cultural identity. Lessersohn first encountered the Houshamadyan website while researching her own family history and was immediately inspired to get involved. After emailing the project director, Lessersohn submitted her own great-grandfather’s recordings of lullabies to the project while she was living in New York.
Lessersohn, a graduate of Harvard College (AB’09 in The Study of Religion), has also worked at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Once Lessersohn relocated to the Boston area, she became the project coordinator for Houshamadyan and has worked to collaborate with the local community and abroad to expand the project’s reach.
“Through my work with the project, I have become increasingly interested in the issue of representing and communicating historical and cultural identity and complexity. I have also, of course, taken a great interest in the study of Armenian communities in the Ottoman Empire, and their interaction with other Ottoman communities and peoples. I hope to explore these themes as well as others in my future studies,” said Lessersohn.
Houshamadyan is currently fundraising for the publication of their first book, Ottoman Armenians, Vol. 1: Life, Culture, Society. The book will be an extension of the website, with new articles, extended versions of current projects and more than 200 images, rather than just a replica of the site. While Houshamadyan is chiefly a web-based archive, the Houshamadyan team says they also value the tactile and representative importance of physical archives and preservation of hard copies of materials. “We believe it is important to have such a publication, to keep in libraries and family homes, to give to others as a gift or an educational tool, and to reach audiences who do not necessarily have access to the internet […] it will only add to the strength and reach of our work if we produce materials in all forms (website, books, exhibitions, workshops, etc). It is always good to express oneself in as many ways as possible, to reach as many people as possible.” Coordinators hope to eventually translate this first publication and future publications, into Armenian and Turkish. Visitors can already access the website in both English and Armenian, and translation into Turkish is forthcoming. Also in the works is a full exhibition and accompanying workshop in Berlin in 2013.