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Digitized Sources for Local Armenian Research

Staff Report

A digitized page from Asbarez newspaper (1918). Photo: Courtesy HathiTrust
A digitized page from Asbarez newspaper (1918).
Photo: Courtesy HathiTrust

The past few years have seen an explosion in the number of digital resources available online, notably in the field of Armenian Studies. The Armenian Studies Program is in the forefront of helping students reach these resources online, as part of our continuing effort to link researchers to new sources of information.

In particular, there are excellent resources for people pursuing local history.

HathiTrust, a digital repository of scanned books and printed materials scanned through universities and the Google Books Library Project, has made a vast number of titles available to the general public. In addition to works of fiction and non-fiction, one can also find Armenian dictionaries and periodicals, including an anniversary publication of Asbarez newspaper from 1918.

The prevalence of so many digitized collections of printed books has freed up libraries to focus on the digitization of their special collections to distinguish themselves. Conglomerates of universities and cultural institutions have committed to maintaining the digitized data and servers, which offers greater security that the resource will be there for posterity, thus allowing collections from smaller institutions to come to light. What this means to the student of Armenian Studies is that even a greater number of resources are available virtually.

For those interested in local history, the Online Archive of California (OAC) offers a single search engine to query archival collections throughout the state. The OAC also operates Calisphere, a separate search engine of digitized archival images from California institutions. One such image was used for the Armenian Studies Program Genocide exhibit last spring in the Madden Library, in a section documenting survivor life in America. The image, dating from 1920, shows an Armenian girl as part of a Melting Pot float in the Armistice Day parade in downtown Banning, California.

Digitized resources available online are not limited to print sources: the Internet Archive provides access to audio files of a KPFA 1976 radio program Saroyan: My Name is William by Charles Amirkhanian and Vic Bedoian, which includes over an hour of Saroyan reminiscing about growing up in Fresno. Also pertinent to local history, recordings and photographs from the WPA California Folk Music Project (1938-1940] are available online through the Library of Congress. On the site, one can listen to ethnographer Sidney Robertson Cowell’s 1939 recording of Armenian musicians in the Fresno area, including Aslanian’s Armenian Orchestra, Ruben J. Baboyan, and Mary Goshtigian.

If a digitized version exists of a title in the Armenian Studies Program collection, a link has been included to that digital version in the Armenian Studies Program online catalog, found on the home page at fresnostate.edu/armenianstudies. Links to resources pertinent to our collection, like the KVPR’s Saroyan interview, will also be included.

Hathi Trust: digitized books and print materials-hathitrust.org

Internet Archive: provides access to digitized collections, including books and audio-visual materials-Archive.org (for Saroyan interview, search “Saroyan” “KPFA” in search window)