Zoryan Institute Acquires Genocide Archives Unknown for Almost a Century

Zoryan Institute Acquires Genocide Archives Unknown for Almost a Century

Armenian Reporter International [Paramus] 08 Aug 1997: 13.

Recently, the Zoryan Institute acquired a large collection of archives related to the Armenian Genocide. The collection was unknown to the world for almost a century.

The archival collection of Royal and Lizzie Cole, American missionaries in Turkish Armenia and Kurdistan in the years 1868-1908, documents events and developments in Turkish Armenia spanning over four extraordinary decades, presents accounts and stories never heard before, and provides additional details for the history of the Armenian massacres.

The Cole Collection consists of over 10,000 densely written journal pages, letters, lectures, reports, observations, hand-drawn charts and maps, with some 500 photographic prints and 400 negatives. The Cole Collection chronicles the massacres of Armenians starting in the 1890s and provides a rich portrait of Armenian life in the 19th century. The immensity of the resources provided by this Collection will impact the study of genocide for decades to come.

Rev. Royal M. Cole and his wife Lizzie Cobleigh Cole served as Congregationalist missionaries for forty years in 19th-century Turkish Armenia and Kurdistan, under the sponsorship of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The Coles arrived at Erzeroum in August 1868, during the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz. Over the next sixteen years, Rev. and Mrs. Cole were engaged in medical and famine relief work, and the building and maintenance of educational institutions at Erzeroum. In 1884, Rev. Cole assumed the position of Director of the American Mission at Bitlis, organizing extensive relief assistance throughout the province (particularly following the widespread massacre of Armenians in many locations across this vilayet in August 1894), and directing a number of schools and orphanages there. In May 1908, ten months before the deposal of Abdulhamid II, the Coles retired to the United States.

Rev. Cole was referred to frequently by British consular officers and ambassadors in a number of communications published in the British Blue Book, particularly in the years 1894 through 1904. He was alluded to by name or as a "trusted source in Bitlis," occasionally as "the missionary at Bitlis," and even as one of "the missionaries at Sasun."

Mark Malicoat, a great-grandson of Rev. Royal Cole and a scholar who has studied at the Collection, pointed out: "The cole Collection affords a unique contribution to questions surrounding a number of important events which occurred in the Bitlis and Van provinces during the years 1894-1904. It also affirms the motives of the Ottoman government's anti-Armenian operations and shows the scope of these actions, which are significantly larger than has hitherto been established."

The Cole Collection was purchased for $100,000. The initial steps to acquire the archives were led by Kourken Sarkissian, President of Zoryan Institute Canada, who, together with Prof. Vahakn Dadrian, went to Portland, Oregon, in May, to see and evaluate the collection. Prof. Saul Negoghosian of the University of Toronto was instrumental in introducing the holder of the archives to the Institute. In early June, Zoryan's new Director Hratch Tchilingirian joined the negotiation process. On June 28, the acquisition of the Collection was finalized and the archives were brought to the Zoryan Institute.

An introduction and background to the Cole Collection has been prepared and will be published by Zoryan Institute shortly.

Zoryan Institute for Contemporary Armenian Research and Documentation, Inc. is a publicly supported non-profit organization, dedicated to research, analysis and presentation of vital events and issues concerning Armenia, the Diaspora and history of the Armenian Genocide.

Copyright Armenian Reporter Aug 8, 1997

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