USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies converted a food truck into a mobile studio that travels throughout Southern California recording Armenian diasporans’ stories.
The initiative, called #MyArmenianStory, is a crowd-sourced oral history project that documents the Armenian experience.
“It’s an attempt to capture the history of the people and give them a voice,” said Syuzanna Petrosyan, associate director at the USC Armenian Institute. “It gives Armenians a chance to pass down something tangible to the next generation.”
During Armenian History Month in April, the team of researchers went to Armenian neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Glendale, Pasadena and San Diego to connect with the larger Armenian community and listen to their stories of survival and success.
The video interviews not only cultivate generational record, but also are primary sources for scholars interested in understanding the global Armenian narrative.
Millions of Armenians fled their homeland during the Armenian Genocide in 1915 and thousands again during the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020. To combat the erasure of history and loss of identity, the researchers aim to continue to cultivate Armenian traditions and truths.
“It is really important for me to document my family’s trajectory accurately,” Petrosyan said. “Institutions are usually telling the stories, so this gives us a chance for the people to tell their stories, as well.”
The researchers’ projects – specifically those centered around oral history – emphasize the historical and cultural effects of global issues on Armenians.
“Immigration stories are often told impersonally, and this gives a human voice to those stories,” said Lilit Keshishyan, research associate at USC Armenian Institute and lecturer. “Both are necessary to give a more complete understanding of how Armenians are connecting to these larger global events.”
Many Armenian students at USC believe it is important to cultivate a community on college campuses.
“I think the bulk of the responsibility lies on the diaspora, especially students and young adults, to make sure that tradition and culture is upheld,” said Andrew Garabedian, president of USC’s Armenian Student Association. “I wanted us to have a more prominent voice and create a sense of family on campus.”
Armenians can visit the truck or record their stories at home and upload them to the digital archive. All recordings will be saved in the USC Digital Libraries.