The History of ARCS

 

The idea to establish ARCS was born in conversations between founders Professor Kevin Clinton and Dr. Nora Dimitrova Clinton shortly after the summer of 2000, when Kevin visited Bulgaria for the first time, prompted by his interest in Thrace and ancient mystery cults. He was impressed by Bulgaria’s wealth of cultural and historical sites, many of which remained hidden from the eyes of even the most curious visitors due to lack of proper signs and advertisement. Kevin and Nora were both alumni of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and allowed themselves to dream of the possibility of a similar institution in Bulgaria, with a focus on all Southeast European countries that had been formerly isolated from contacts with the rest of the academic world.

The next step was to test the waters by ascertaining whether this vision appealed to a larger international community. Kevin and Nora Clinton also met with a number of Bulgarian scholars, who welcomed the idea of ARCS with great enthusiasm. To name just a few, late Professor Dimitar Boyadzhiev, Chair of the Classics Department at the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” (SU), was one of our most fervent advocates and facilitated many a productive meeting with prominent Bulgarian academics. Professor Petya Yaneva, Dean of the SU Faculty of Classical and Modern Philology, Dr. Lyudmil Vagalinski, currently Director of the Archaeological Institute and Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), Professors Mark Stefanovich and Evelina Kelbetcheva of the American University in Bulgaria, Professors Bogdan Bogdanov, Serguey Ignatov, Peter Dimitrov, and Ivan Gatsov of the New Bulgarian University; Professors Rumyana Mihneva and Maria Manolova of the Varna Free University, Dr. Mitko Dimitrov, Director of the BAS Institute of Economics, Dr. Maya Vassileva of the Center of Thracology, and many other scholars, joined a fast growing support network, which helped turn the dream of ARCS into reality. Indispensable guidance was provided by the ARCS Steering Committee, consisting of the following individuals: Glenn Bugh, Kevin and Nora Clinton, Elizabeth Gebhard, Archer Martin, Lynn Roller, and James Wiseman. Professor Julia Stefanova, Head of the American Bulgarian Fulbright Commission, embraced the idea of ARCS early on and facilitated cooperation with the Fulbright program. U.S. Embassy officials have been most welcoming in endorsing our activities and events, notably Ambassadors James Pardew, John Beyrle, Nancy McEldowney, James Warlick, and Cultural Affairs Officer Ken Moskowitz.

ARCS was officially established as a non-profit foundation in Bulgaria in February 2005, with the instrumental help of lawyers Stoyan Terziyski and Alexander Kashamov, who ensured that the entire documentation of the Center, and subsequently, its building, was in perfect order and compliance with relevant laws and regulations. ARCS received timely support from Trustees Professors Bogomil Gerganov and Elizabeth Gebhard, without whom its first steps would have been inconceivable. Professor Gerganov purchased an apartment in downtown Sofia, which became the initial headquarters of ARCS, and donated a significant sum, which sustained the Center throughout its birth and infancy. The Luther I. Replogle Foundation’s generous donations turned the “toddler” years of the Center into a flying start, and the Tianaderrah Foundation helped greatly with financial support for our students.

Dr. Nikola Theodossiev of the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” was very helpful in promoting ARCS among Bulgarian and European academic circles and serving the Center first as a pro bono, and then as a salaried Assistant Director in Sofia. He played a crucial role in the early academic programs of ARCS, including the 2006 summer session, which left our first alumni with unforgettable memories of Bulgaria.

Professor Stephen Tracy, then Director of the American School in Athens (ASCSA), delivered the inaugural Eugene Schuyler lecture in October 2006, which marked the first international recognition for ARCS by the ASCSA, the oldest and one of the most prestigious American Overseas Research Centers. Not long thereafter, ARCS became a member of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), with the encouragement of CAORC President Mary Ellen Lane, and an educational member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria.

Kevin and Nora Clinton spent 8 months in 2006 and over a year in the period 2007-08 in Sofia, which allowed them to identify by the end of 2007 the Center’s current home, and, starting in January 2008, to purchase, register, renovate, and furnish it, thanks to the initiative and guidance of David W. Packard, President of the Packard Humanities Institute and a most generous grant from the Institute. Building Manager Anton Kazakov and Custodian and Gardener Zhivka Kazakova did not spare time or effort in rendering and keeping the building and grounds fully suited for all of the Center’s activities. Large grants from the Getty Foundation and the America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF) provided the core collection of the library, which also received numerous donations of books from many individuals and institutions. Professor Nicolay Sharankov and Mr. Hristo Alexiev helped catalogue the rapidly growing library of ARCS, following the Library of Congress system, and Mr. Alexiev organized a series of successful cultural events.

In 2010, ARCS launched its first publication, the historical monograph Communism vs. Democracy: Bulgaria 1944 to 1997, by the acclaimed journalist and writer Nassya Kralevska Owens, with introduction by Harvard Professor and Cold War expert Mark Kramer. The second publication of ARCS, State and Church: Studies in Medieval Bulgaria and Byzantium, edited by V. Gyuzelev and K. Petkov, an English translation of 13 essays composed by leading Bulgarian historians, followed in 2011.

Another significant grant from the Packard Humanities Institute and the indispensable support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation allowed us to appoint in July 2010 Archaeology Program Officer Dr. Emil Nankov and full-time Professor and Director in Sofia, C. Denver Graninger, (previously Kevin and Nora Clinton served as pro bono Director in Sofia). Under Professor Graninger’s guidance, the academic program and educational trips of ARCS expanded and truly flourished, and the Library became one of the best research venues in the country. Mr. Petev attracted new sources of welcome financial and moral support for the Center and continues to develop its fund-raising strategies with enthusiasm and impressive success. Archaeology Program Officer Dr. Nankov has done wonders in promoting cooperation with prominent Bulgarian archaeologists and administering archaeological competitions and grants, which have given a tremendous stimulus to site preservation in Bulgaria.

In Fall 2010, ARCS hired a pair of interns to assist with the Library and in Fall 2012, the Center hired them with full-time contracts. Boyana Boyanova and Elitsa Popova, both with BA's in Library Science, have developed a professional academic library. They migrated the stand-alone ARCS catalogue to the NALIS platform, which unites the catalogues of more than 20 universities and institutes in Bulgaria. They are also developing important acquisition policies.

Between July 2012 and August 2014, Dr. Eric C. De Sena served as the second full time Director of ARCS. He continued the programs developed by Dr. Graninger and Dr. Nankov and initiated new academic, artistic and outreach endeavors. In September 2014, Dr. Emil Nankov took office as Academic Director of ARCS.

ARCS’s history is still in the making. It started with hope against hope, boldly conceived as an American dream, nurtured by our Sponsors, Trustees, Managing Committee Members, Personnel, Students, and numerous supporters worldwide, to whom we extend our deep gratitude.