{Armenia} Sardarapat Ethnography & Liberation Movement History Museum

December 3, 2012


Time to introduce you to another museum from Armenia, I think. It’s not just because I started out my museum career as an ethnologist that I find ethnographic museums interesting. Just as local history museums are a great way to get an insight into a new city (such as the Yerevan History Museum I wrote about earlier), ethnographic museums are a great way to get an insight into an unfamiliar country and culture.

One could argue that ethnographic museums become repetitive after a while – if you’ve seen one display about food history or material culture you’ve seen them all – but it’s the subtle differences within these that make it interesting. For example, the material culture of Scotland will differ from the material culture of Armenia, but I also find it interesting to discover similarities. And besides, you could equally argue that all natural history museums are the same, and I never get bored of those either.

The Sardarapat Ethnography and Liberation Movement History Museum, in the Armavir Province of Armenia, is located of the grounds of the historic Battle of Sardarapat, part of the memorial park built in honour of the victory of the Armenian people over the Turkish Empire at said battle in 1918. The exhibits are fairly typical for an ethnographic museum, beginning with local stones and minerals; pottery, querns and millstones; and everyday household objects. The displays then go on to document the occupational history of the country, with implements for tillage, harvest and herb collection; animal care, milking and horse shoeing; instruments for fishing, hunting and beekeeping; tools for blacksmithing, coppersmithing, tailoring, shoemaking and wood carving. Exhibits on food preparation and traditional clothing complete the insight into early traditional culture, and in a country as religious as Armenia, statues, idols and stone crosses are also strongly represented.

On the upper floor, the exhibits focus on the finer sides of life, with tapestry and weaving (including a live demonstration for us); jewellery and lace; furniture and decorative arts; musical instruments; rituals and holiday traditions, e.g. Shrovetide shadow theatre puppets. And further religious items such as bibles and a wishing tree.

One of the unique features of the museum, besides the unobscured view of majestic Mount Ararat, is the fact that the galleries are built in a complete circle (visible in some of the photos above), on two floors, which our hosts explained was to symbolise the earth. The central space, i.e. the gallery in the middle of the circle, houses an exhibition on war and the historic battle that took place on the grounds.

In the foyer of the museum there was also a special of the most detailed silk paintings. We were gobsmacked to discover that they had all been done by children aged 8-14 years old.

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