OH Girls: A memory collective
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AUA Alumnae Share Their Oral History Projects

2 min read

In the summer of 2020, four alumnae of the American University of Armenia (AUA), Gayane Aghabalyan (BAEC ‘20), Meline Asryan (BAEC ‘20), Gayane Ghazaryan (BAEC ‘20), and Houry Pilibbossian (BAEC ‘19), came together as the founding members of OH Girls: A memory collective, to discuss their shared interest and love for oral history. 

On March 14, 2021, the collective was invited to deliver a webinar for Z Gallery, a creative center with an intergenerational and intercultural mandate. Founded by Canadian-Iranian multidisciplinary artist and oral historian Shahrzad Arshadi, an award-winning artist and human rights activist from Montreal, Canada, Z Gallery promotes storytelling and art as a form of communication. Arshadi is a core member of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) at Concordia University in Montreal and the founder of Life Stories Quilt, a multilingual oral history podcast.

Back then: Voicing, embodying, re-connecting, moderated by Dr. Hourig Attarian, associate professor at the AUA College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS), focused on the oral history based research creation work that Aghabalyan, Ghazaryan, and Pilibbossian had completed for their capstone projects within the AUA English and Communications (EC) program. 

Building Narratives into Gyumri: An Engineer’s Tale by Aghabalyan is a set of oral history interviews with her grandfather who worked as an engineer for over 45 years in Gyumri and has built and led the construction of numerous buildings. Aghabalyan further elaborates on one of the five specific sites chosen for her capstone project in her blog The Silent Witness of the Earthquake – The Black Fountain of Gyumri

Ghazaryan’s project The Kurdish Voice of Radio Yerevan explores the history of Radio Yerevan’s Kurdish broadcasts, which served as a bridge between Kurds and their culture throughout the second half of the 20th century when the Kurdish language and cultural expression were banned by the Turkish government.

The Olive Branch capstone project by Pilibbossian sheds light on the lives of a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter, delving into family narratives and culinary cultures through an intergenerational lens of storytelling. The research is conducted through a set of in-depth oral history interviews with Pilibbossian’s mother and grandmother, along with her journal entries about the process.

The panel counted 61 attendees, while the live Facebook event had over 1,000 viewers of diverse backgrounds and geographies from Yerevan to Gyumri, Istanbul to Montreal, New York to Chicago, Anchorage to Boston, Miami to Phoenix, and from London to Mauritius Island.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.