Conservation at Gyumri’s Aslamazyan Gallery

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Gyumri, Armenia – May 2018

Armenia is a country facing many challenges. This is especially true in Gyumri, where disaster struck in 1988. The city was devastated by the Spitak earthquake with more than half the city destroyed, 25,000 people killed, 140,000 injured and 16,000 rescued from the rubble.

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, the Soviet Union promised to rapidly rebuild Gyumri. But times had changed and the Soviet Union was in decline, dissolving in December 1991. Supply lines between the republics collapsed, industries closed, thousands of jobs were lost leading to rapid decline of the city’s economy.

Gyumri’s struggle is now measured in decades, with 2018 marking the 30th anniversary of the devastation. Diversion of vital funds by corrupt officials has led to a drastic reduction in assistance from outside Armenia. AiP has been supporting building conservation efforts in the city’s central historic district since 2011.

With this backdrop, AiP jammers (our intrepid volunteers) arrived in Gyumri in May, just a few days after a new prime minister was elected as the result of massive peaceful marches throughout Armenia. The citizens are now motivated to join forces and move the country forward.

Heritage tourism is the key to Gyumri’s survival and guides AiP’s choice of projects. The task at hand in May was conservation of original wooden balcony in the courtyard of the Aslamazyan Sisters Gallery. This architecturally significant structure houses a valuable art collection and provides educational and hands-on programs for school children and the public. In 2017, roughly 4200 students and community members were served, as well as visitors coming to see the collections. The Gallery had 10,180 visitors.

During our two-week hands-on session, jammers donated 360 hours of labor. Twelve original supporting posts were sanded and coated with oil and varnish. Vegetation hanging from posts was trimmed to reduce weight. We plan to continue the project in 2019, repairing second story balcony flooring and replacing one cracked post. Once balcony repair and conservation is completed, it will again be open for use, enhancing education programs and visitor experience.

We ended our session with a 3-day tour of Armenia’s remarkable natural and historic sites. A few highlights –

  • Exploring the hillsides of a 4000BC settlement and archaeological site
  • Enjoying music and dance performances by Gyumri students
  • Visiting 3rd century basilica, and 11th century monastery and school still in operation
  • Indulging in delicious cuisine in a variety of restaurants!

A Gyumri resident returned recently from Moscow to be involved in changes resulting from Armenia’s May 2018 “revolution”. She worked with AiP jammers for two days and shared her perspective:

“Five American women impacted the community simply by sanding and varnishing balcony posts. People saw them walking to work, knew they spent their own money to come, and asked: “Why are they here?” They began to rethink how they could approach their own problems.”

Join our efforts in Gyumir! We hope 2019 brings a large international crew.

  • Become a jammer and contribute to revitalization efforts [link to reg]
  • Join the growing group of supporters and make a donation [link to donation page]
  • Fulfill your internship requirements by joining this hands-on experience!

PRESERVATION IS A POWERFUL TOOL FOR CHANGE

Come with Adventures in Preservation’s to Gyumri in 2019 for the adventure of a lifetime!

Learn more about other previous AiP volunteer preservation projects