International collection preserves Assyrian customs, traditions
May 2018 | Photos contributed | By Ramsen Shamon
This story is part of a larger collection of articles covered during the first annual Assyrian National Policy Conference, held on Thursday, May 17 through Saturday, May 19th in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. – At the first annual Assyrian National Policy Conference (ANPC) held in Washington, D.C., the Modern Assyrian Research Archive (MARA) discussed all of the work they had accumulated since their founding in 2008: thousands of pictures, physical books, audiocassettes, hundreds of videos, and more than 4,000 digitized books and periodical issues.
The independent initiative, aimed at preserving Assyrian customs and traditions for generations to come, was part of a larger panel during the national conference to discuss the current challenges facing Assyrians today.
“Nations gather their heritage in an archive in part to prove to themselves and to others what they are as nations,” said Hannibal Travis, MARA advisory board member and professor of law at Florida International University.
Undertaking the preservation of historical photos, newspaper clippings and any other documents can be a challenge for a stateless people like the Assyrians. With no formal funding from a specific state, government, or organization, Assyrians are tasked with working with one another internationally to collect items for the foundation.
“As ganan qa ganan [us for ourselves] in practice – MARA allows us to do a macro re-organizational project as the Assyrian people … [and create] a national archive.” said Michael Youash, MARA advocate and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto.
MARA also acts as a medium in showcasing Assyrian history to those who have an interest in learning more about the Assyrians. The institute requests Assyrians everywhere to submit items that may be of value to MARA’s collection. MARA aims to be the unofficial national archive of all things Assyrians.
MARA is not only found online. It also has a presence around the globe, with locations such as the Assyrian Cultural Center in Gothenburg, Sweden, and at Cambridge University’s Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
MARA’s online and physical presence of living Assyrian history allows those in the diaspora to easily access Assyrian culture virtually – a feat that would be impossible in previous centuries.
“What MARA has given us is an understanding of Assyrians trying their hardest, their agency, to insert themselves and help discern and define and establish their future,” Youash said.
For more information on the MARA Foundation or to contribute to the archive, visit the MARA Foundation online: MARA Foundation