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The Missionary Collection

A woman holding five babies in her arms

The Missionary Collection

After the Genocide, foreign missionaries worked as doctors, nurses, educators, and engineers supporting Near East Relief, a humanitarian organization founded in response to the Genocide. Missionaries served in schools, hospitals, and orphanages. 

While in the region, they photographed the daily lives of Armenians, Kurds, Assyrians, Turks and Greeks, and others in Adana, Agn, Aintab, Aleppo, Antioch, Bitlis, Constantinople, Erzerum, Smyrna, Kessah, Kharpert, Malaria, Sepastia, Talas, and Van.

The photographs in this collection provide a vantage point to the ethnology of the Ottoman Empire– the study of various peoples and the differences and relationships between them. Captured by “outside” Western eyes, the photos offer a different perspective from the professional portraits which comprise the majority of images from this period in Project SAVE’s Archives.

These photos came to Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives primarily from two sources: descendants of missionaries, as well as descendants of students in missionary schools and orphans in Near East Relief orphanages.

Who were the missionaries?

Most often these missionaries were Protestant but there were also French Catholic priests who opened schools for Armenian children. Among the Protestants, there were American and Northern European missionaries, all well educated, many as teachers, medical professionals, and preachers.

The Americans were often recent graduates of Ivy League schools like Mt Holyoke College, Princeton and Harvard universities, and Connecticut College for Women. For service-minded people, missionary work in the Ottoman Empire was the experience to have right out of college—like our Peace Corps is today.

Missionaries traveled the countryside with their cameras to meet the people and consider their needs. Yes, the missionaries did cause controversy by introducing Protestantism to the Gregorian Apostolic Armenian people, and attracting them to attend their churches with the special offer of education for the children. Then, as new needs appeared, the missionaries set up clinics, hospitals, and orphanages—many of whose orphans later entrusted Project SAVE with the photographs gifted to them by their missionary caretakers.

The Araxi Palmer Collection

Collection Description:

In 1997, Araxi Hubbard Dutton Palmer (Araxi Palmer) published the book Triumph from Tragedy, which describes the lives of her adoptive family, the Hubbards from Corning and White Plains, New York, their missionary work in Turkey with Near East Relief during 1872-1920, the rescue of baby Arpenia Karagosian (later named Araxi) in Sivas and adoption by Mary Hubbard in 1920, and their subsequent life in America after 1920.

The materials donated to Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives are related specifically to the publication of the book, and include Araxi Palmer’s research notes, family correspondence and documents, photographs, and other reference materials, as well as the typewritten manuscript and two copies of the book.

Full Collection →