In March HMML began a new preservation project at the Armenian Catholic Clergy Institute of Bzommar in Lebanon. The Bzommar collection of more than a thousand manuscripts in Armenian, Syriac, and Arabic is considered one of the outstanding manuscript collections in the Middle East. Particularly rich in illuminated Armenian manuscripts, the collection at Bzommar will complement HMML's microfilm collection from the Armenian Mechitarist Order in Vienna and the current digital project at the Armenian Apostolic Catholicosate of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon. In the near future HMML will announce other projects related to the Armenian manuscript heritage.
The Clergy Institute of Bzommar has a commanding site in the mountains 30 km north of Beirut, with magnificent views of the Mediterranean. The location was originally chosen in 1749 as the official residence of the Armenian Catholic Patriarch and in 1791 a patriarchal Seminary was established. The magnificent library grew over the past two centuries, as the patriarchal see was moved to Constantinople in 1867 and back to Lebanon in the 1920s following the Armenian Genocide. Today the priestly brotherhood at Bzommar continues to operate a seminary, and has recently established a fine museum in the handsome 18th century buildings of the original seminary.
The work at Bzommar produces high-resolution color images of every page of each manuscript, including the binding. Copies of the digital images will be kept at the Patriarchal Clergy Institute, at HMML, and in a secure, off-site archive. The photographs will be made available to scholars through Vivarium, HMML's on-line access to digitized manuscripts, printed books and art.
HMML began preservation work in Lebanon in April 2003 at Our Lady of Balamand Monastery and University. Since then four additional preservation projects have been developed in Lebanon.