A new project to rescue Armenian press archives

Vue de la Librairie Samuélian (Paris)
Samuelian bookstore (Paris)

French version

The Samuelian oriental bookstore, founded in Paris in 1930, is a famous intellectual center of the Armenian diaspora that had been welcoming journalists, researchers, historians, as well as their working materials: books or press publications for more than 80 years.
Since its closing down around ten years ago, the newspaper collections stored inside have been inexorably deteriorating. Over the years, the condition of the documents has worsen increasingly and some papers can no longer be handled.

With the support of the Samuelian family, sympathetic to the value of these archives, and thanks to the financial support provided by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Calfa will be able to carry out a rescue operation on site. Its challenge is not only to immortalize these newspapers through digitization, but also to make them accessible to the public again by publishing them on the Internet with the help of the Fundamental Scientific Library of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia (FSL), another partner of the project.

Différents journaux arméniens
Several newspapers waiting for the digitization

The considered archives are mainly newspapers from the Armenian diaspora, published between 1920 and 1975, for a total estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 pages. Newspapers published in France in the 1930s are very well represented. There is no exhaustive list of the publications yet, but an initial inventory identified more than 70 different newspapers, published in more than 30 countries of the Armenian diaspora, by instance:

  • France
    • the Երկունք journal (Paris, 1929-1936), published by Chavarch Nartouni
    • the Զուարթնոց journal (Paris, 1929-1964), published by Hrant Palouyan
    • the Կեանք եւ Արուեստ journal (Paris, 1931-1940), published by the Barsamian brothers
    • the Օշական journal (Paris, 1920-1921)
    • the Ցոլք journal (Paris, 1928), published by Vahram Gakavian
  • Lebanon
    • Ազդակ (Beirut, 1927 - ongoing)
    • Զարթօնք (Beirut, 1937 - ongoing)
  • Egypt
    • Լուսարձակ (Cairo, 1926-1928)
    • Լուսաբեր (Cairo, 1904-1908)
  • Greece
    • Նոր օր (Athens, 1923-1944)
  • Turkey
    • Շողակաթ (Constantinople, 1952-1995)
    • Djem (Constantinople, 1911)
  • Romania
    • Հայ մամուլ (Bucharest, 1934 - 1942)

Major plans to digitize the Armenian press are currently underway around the world, notably supported by the Gulbenkian Foundation in its efforts to digitize and preserve texts in Western Armenian. In this context, the digitization of Haratch by the ARAM association and BULAC (France) from 2011, and then of the Armenian press of the Congregation of Mekhitarist Fathers of Vienna (Austria) by the Fundamental Scientific Library of NASRA from 2019, have led to the creation of huge searchable databases accessible to the general public: click to access the database.

In line with this dynamic, the Calfa team started the task of inventorying the newspapers stored at the Samuelian bookstore. Subsequently, all of these pages will be digitized. Calfa OCR will then be used on these pages to extract the text.

Developed especially by Calfa to perform with accuracy on Armenian-language newspapers, Calfa OCR allows texts printed in newspapers to be recognized and turned into a digital, editable document. Finally, the digitized files and the corresponding, automatically transcribed text will enter the FSL digital library.

Exemple d'analyse sur journal Haratch
Layout analysis and understanding on Haratch - © Calfa

We will keep you regularly informed on the blog and social networks about the progress of the project and our discoveries, so stay tuned!

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Calfa Team