As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and the founding of our organization, the Near East Foundation – proud successor to the Near East Relief – has created the Near East Relief Historical Society (NERHS). This educational initiative is dedicated to the preservation, reconstruction, and dissemination of the relief effort’s history and archival materials. We intend to pay tribute to the Near East Relief founders, relief workers, and beneficiaries by preserving our archives and creating a beautiful and informative online museum.
HISTORY: In the wake of World War One and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the U.S. Ambassador to Constantinople alerted the State Department to the the Armenian Genocide. Henry Morgenthau, Sr. called upon the United States to address the needs of a people that was left without homes, food, shelter, or country. A group of American philanthropists and educators responded by establishing the Near East Relief. From 1915 - 1930, Near East Relief saved the lives of over one million Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek refugees -- including 132,000 orphans.
The Near East Relief accomplished this astonishing feat through groundbreaking campaigns to raise funds and awareness. The organization combined striking imagery, passionate celebrity spokespeople, and captivating stories from the field to inspire Americans from all sociocultural backgrounds to become citizen philanthropists. The Near East Relief not only saved a generation of people; it also changed the face of humanitarianism.
Known as the Near East Foundation since 1930, the organization continues to help build more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive communities in the Middle East and Africa through education, community organizing, and economic development.
OUR PROJECT: We will preserve our vast institutional archives and build public awareness of this incredible story through an online museum celebrating the Near East Relief's work and the resilience of the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian cultures. Our project has two phases:
Preserve the Near East Relief Archives: The archives are housed at the Rockefeller Archive Center in Tarrytown, NY. Our popular collection hold thousands of letters, photographs, journal entries, and publications detailing Near East Relief’s work in the U.S. and abroad from 1915 – 1930. Many of the documents are extremely fragile and can no longer be handled by researchers.
Working with the skilled archivists at the Rockefeller Archive Center, NERHS will use funds from this campaign to create a collection inventory, identify items in need of conservation, and produce high-quality digital scans of stable materials.
Develop a Near East Relief Online Museum: We are eager to share our history with the general public through an interactive and educational online museum. The museum will grow to include additional archival items as they are digitized by the Society and shared by members and affiliate institutions. NERHS will also memorialize each of the more than 1,000 relief workers and the Near East Relief leadership. This campaign will allow us to hire a talented web designer to build a beautiful interactive website.
The online museum will be a resource for scholars, students, and anyone with an interest in this critical period in world history. It will serve as a repository for academic essays, articles, and teaching materials related to the Near East Relief. It will also create a vital community for the descendants of Near East Relief beneficiaries and volunteers, who will finally have a forum to share their memories and stories.