“From Genocide to Justice:
The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript"
Heghnar Watenpaugh investigates the biography of a medieval Armenian Gospels manuscript, where art history intersects with cultural heritage and painful histories of genocide and migration. Eight of the manuscript’s illuminated pages were discovered in the J. Paul Getty Museum in 2010, prompting a lawsuit. The tale of the separation of the pages from the manuscript tells a story of destruction and survival, and makes the case for a human right to art.
Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh is Professor of Art History at the University of California, Davis. She researches the visual cultures of the Middle East, including issues of architectural preservation, museums, and cultural heritage. Her first book, "The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," received the Spiro Kostof book Award for urban history from the Society of Architectural Historians. Her second book, "The Missing Pages: The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript, from Genocide to Justice," published by Stanford University Press in 2019, is the only book to win awards from both the Society for Armenian Studies and the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association. The book also won the Gold Medal in World History from the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and it was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing (non-fiction). Her scholarly publications have won Best Article Prizes from the Syrian Studies Association and from the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the J. Paul Getty Trust, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright-Hays, Social Science Research Council, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, and the President of the University of California. In addition to scholarly essays, Heghnar Watenpaugh’s writing has appeared in Newsweek and The Los Angeles Times and was featured in a BBC series about cultural heritage destroyed during the Syrian conflict. Professor Watenpaugh has served on the boards of the Society of Architectural Historians, the Historians of Islamic Art Association, he Syrian Studies Association, and is currently on the board of the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus. This year, she is a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation as well as a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar.
[Image: Toros Roslin, Canon Tables from the Zeytun Gospels, 1256, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 59, folio 6r. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program]