ISAW Library Receives Collection of Nina G. Garsoïan

By Gabriel McKee

This week, the ISAW library received the first installment of its latest collection acquisition, the library of Armenian scholar Nina G. Garsoïan. The Garsoïan Collection contains a wealth of scholarship and primary sources on Armenian history as well as supporting material on Central Asia and the Ancient Near East. Encompassing material in Armenian, Russian, French, and English, the collection greatly strengthens the ISAW Library’s holdings in the history of the South Caucasus and the Byzantine Empire. Of particular note are the Armenian-language titles in the collection, many of which are difficult to find in American libraries. Reflecting the wide-ranging interests of Prof. Garsoian, the collection spans the breadth of Armenian history. The ISAW Library will retain items within the scope of ISAW’s mission while placing materials on the medieval and modern periods in the collections of the Institute of Fine Arts and New York University’s Bobst Library.

Born in Paris to Armenian emigrés in 1923, Nina Garsoïan came with her family to New York in the fall of 1933. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1943 with a degree in Classical Archaeology, and went on to Columbia University, where she received an MA in 1946 and enrolled in a doctoral program in Medieval History in 1948. She trained as a concert pianist, being invited to the WNYC Young Keyboard Masters program in 1951, but a hand injury that year rendered further pursuit of a career as a professional pianist impossible. Instead, she redirected her focus to the study of Classical Armenian, receiving a Fulbright fellowship to study at the Armenian Benedictine Mekhitarist Congregation in Venice. In 1956 she accepted a position in the History Department at Smith College. She received a joint appointment in the History and Middle East Languages and Cultures Departments at Columbia in 1965. There, she developed a Program in Armenian Studies and became Chairwoman of the Department of Middle East Languages and Culture. From 1977-1979, she served as Dean of the Graduate School at Princeton University before returning to Columbia as the chair of a newly-founded Department of Armenian History and Civilization. Since Prof. Garsoïan’s retirement in 1993, she has continued to serve as director of the editorial board of the Revue des études arméniennes. Her many publications include L’Eglise Arménienne et le Grand Schisme d'Orient (1998) and The Paulician Heresy (1967), as well as a memoir, De Vita Sua (2011). Throughout her career, she has participated in the Dumbarton Oaks Symposium on Byzantine studies, twice serving as its co-director. She has received Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, participated in two National Endowment Senior Fellowship Exchanges with the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and has twice been awarded the Mesrop Mashtots Medal for academic distinction.