Smyrna: The Beginning

Athens, Greece
From Feb 10, 2023

The photographic exhibition “Smyrna: The Beginning” sponsored by PANART, presents life in Smyrna before and after the events in 1922 through the works of famous photographers in the beginning of the 20th century. It is an attempt to familiarize the visitor with the painful history of the city of Smyrna, birthplace of The American College of Greece.

The American College of Greece is closely connected to the city of Smyrna and its history. Travelers often compared Smyrna, with its spectacular port built by the French in the 19th century, to Paris; and in its streets, coffee shops and hotels they saw a “Vanity Fair” full of pleasures and fashion.

It was in this city that a missionary from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions at Boston, Miss Maria West, made her life purpose to follow the spirit of God and help educate Christian communities (Armenians and Greeks) who were exposed to the “corrupting influence of French literature an infidelity which poisoned family life”.

When in 1875 Miss West was appointed to revitalize her missionary work in Smyrna and liberate children from illiteracy, she placed great emphasis on the education of young women and created the American College for Girls.

In 1922, during the Asia Minor Catastrophe, the College was in the prime of its growth, with four divisions, 300 students, a choir, a library and numerous cultural and philanthropic events.

After the Catastrophe, the American College for Girls, faithful to its motto “to serve and not to be served” continued its social work in Greece.

Following their mission, the staff and faculty of the College worked in several American Relief Missions in Piraeus and they formed their own Relief Committee in October 1922.

The images in this exhibition were scanned from the original photographs, courtesy of the Harry Yiakoumis and Pierre de Gigord collections.

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