The Armenian Research Center (ARC) at the University of Michigan-Dearborn (UM-Dearborn) was founded in 1985 for the documentation, research, dissemination of, and publications in Armenian history and culture.
The creation of the ARC was the result of founding director Dr. Dennis R. Papazian's vision along with other enthusiastic members of the Knights of Vartan, a North American Fraternal Armenian organization. They sought to establish a facility devoted to documentation, research and publications in Armenian studies on a distinguished American university campus. With generous donations from Edward and Helen Mardigian, Suren D. Fesjian, Dr. Aram Janigian, and many other supporters, an initial large endowment was established to secure the ARC’s financial viability.
Dr. Papazian was appointed by the Regents of the university as the ARC’s first director. He served diligently and prudently in that capacity until his retirement in 2006. The current director is Dr. Ara Sanjian.
ARC Grand Opening, May 16, 1986
The first major book collection the ARC received in 1989 was from John Vigen Der Manuelian, an influential Armenian community activist and benefactor from Boston, Mass. Since then, the ARC’s collection and archives have grown continuously, maintaining as of 2021 over 30,000 volumes, plus periodical series and offprints, unpublished doctoral dissertations, microfilms and microfiche, ephemera, audio-visual materials and oral histories on Armenian and related topics in English, Armenian, French, Russian, Turkish and many other languages. In 2006, the ARC launched an initiative to make its collection of books, periodicals and audio-visual materials accessible through the online catalog of the University’s Mardigian Library.
In addition to acquiring a special Armenian Studies collection, the ARC has consistently pursued from its beginnings continuous activities along four other major tracks: sponsoring the Armenian language courses on campus, organizing lectures and public outreach events, hosting visiting scholars and providing information and advice on all things Armenian.
Sponsoring Armenian Language courses, as part of the Modern and Classical Languages offered on the UM-Dearborn Campus, has been one of the ARC’s flagship initiatives. Courses are offered based on the needs of the University of Michigan-Dearborn faculty and students.
The Scholars-in-Residence program sponsors graduate students and scholars from all over the world to come to Dearborn for short or longer periods of time. They use the ARC’s resources in their research, as well as sometimes present their research on campus and through lectures organized for the local metro Detroit community.
Public lectures and public outreach events, regularly organized by the ARC, continue bringing in scholars to share their research with students, faculty and the local metro Detroit community.
The ARC also provides resources and advice to journalists, media outlets, officials and other interested individuals and organizations to help them gain a better understanding of events in Armenia, the Armenian-American community, the Armenian diaspora at large and other Armenian-related topics.
The publication program began in 1994 with the release of Out of Turkey by Harry Yessaian and Dennis Papazian. The publication program has since become another important track of the ARC activities. In 2007, an agreement was reached with Wayne State University Press whereby the latter became the distributor of the ARC publications. Three books were published and distributed under this arrangement between 2008 and 2011. Since then, the ARC has brought together a number of prominent scholars in the field and established an editorial board for a new Armenian Studies publication series based in Michigan. In collaboration with the Michigan State University Press, the first volume in this new series—Texts and Studies in Armenian History, Society and Culture —appeared in 2021. It is Khatchig Mouradian’s The Resistance Network: The Armenian Genocide and Humanitarianism in Ottoman Syria, 1915-1918 (Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2021). The Michigan State University Press is now the distributor of previous ARC publications as well.
Collaboration with the Society for Armenian Studies and other Armenian Studies chairs, centers and programs has been at the core of ARC’s activities as well. Between 1994 and 2001, the ARC served as the secretariat of the Society for Armenian Studies, and between 1996 and 2000 it published the Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies—the leading peer reviewed journal in Armenian studies in the United States. ARC directors Dennis Papazian and Ara Sanjian, as well as other ARC staff members have served at times on the SAS Executive Council. Papazian was the SAS President in 1988-1991, and 1997-2001.
A number of major exhibitions and conferences have marked the ARC’s history since 2010. They brought many established scholars and promising graduate students to the UM-Dearborn campus, as well as broadened the exposure to Armenian topics at the University and among the local metro-Detroit community.
Twice that we know of, the ARC has been mentioned in the chambers of U.S. Congress: once in the Senate and on another occasion in the House of Representatives. Each occasion is included below:
• Statement of Senator Donald Riegle on the floor of the Senate on February 27, 1990.
• Statement of Representative Sander Levin on the floor of the House on April 24, 1996.