Armenian Orphan Rug Will Be Displayed As Part of White House Visitors Center Exhibit in November



WASHINGTON — Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced last week that the White House will display the Armenian Orphan Rug, also known as the Ghazir Rug, as part of an exhibit at the White House Visitors Center.  The exhibit — titled “Thank you to the United States: Three Gifts to Presidents in Gratitude for American Generosity Abroad” — will showcase the Ghazir rug presented to President Calvin Coolidge, as well as the Sèvres vase, given to President Herbert Hoover in appreciation for feeding children in post-World War I France, and the Flowering Branches in Lucite, given to President Barack Obama in recognition of American support of the people of Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2010.  These three gifts to American presidents will be on display so visitors to the White House and those wishing to see the artifacts can view them.

The Armenian Orphan Rug was woven by orphans of the Armenian Genocide in 1920, and presented to Coolidge in 1925 as a symbol of gratitude for American aid and generosity for US assistance during the Genocide. The rug, which measures 11’7” x 18’5”, has more than 4,000,000 hand-tied knots and took the Armenian girls in the Ghazir Orphanage of the Near East Relief Society 10 months to weave.

Coolidge noted that, “The rug has a place of honor in the White House where it will be a daily symbol of goodwill on earth.”  The rug — which has been in storage at the White House for decades — will be displayed from November 18 to 23 in the White House Visitors Center.  Schiff and the Armenian community have worked with the White House to find a way for the Ghazir rug to be sensitively and appropriately displayed.

“The Armenian Orphan Rug embodies the resilience of the Armenian people through their darkest days and serves as a poignant reminder of 1.5 million Armenians who were murdered in the first genocide of the 20th Century. It also reminds Americans that our government was a central player in efforts to call attention to the plight of the Armenian people and provide relief to survivors,” said Schiff. “Since first raising this issue with the White House, we have worked to find a dignified way to display the Rug so that Americans can come to see this important artifact, and learn about an important chapter of the shared history of the Armenian and American peoples.  I want to thank the White House for working with us, and look forward to seeing the rug displayed at the White House Visitors Center.”

Schiff and Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) sent a letter along with 31 other members of the House to President Obama last year urging the administration to allow exhibition of the rug. In the letter they stated: “The Armenian Orphan Rug is a piece of American history and it belongs to the American people. For more than a decade, Armenian-American organizations have sought the public display of the rug and have requested the White House and the State Department grant their request on numerous occasions.  Unfortunately, Armenian Americans have yet to have their requests granted. We urge you to release this American treasure for exhibition.” Since sending the letter, Schiff has continued to urge the White House to find a way for the rug to be displayed.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) also weighed in with a letter to the White House.

Markey (D-Mass.) applauded the Obama Administration’s announcement and praised Obama and the White House for acting to display this symbol.

“The Armenian Orphan Rug is an important piece of our history. Its display serves not just as a reminder of the horrors of the Armenian Genocide but also of the longstanding friendship between the Armenian and American people,” said Markey. “I commend President Obama and the White House for working with me and my Congressional colleagues to ensure that this rug can be given the public exhibition that it deserves.”

Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) said the following regarding the announcement: “The White House has taken an important step in recognizing historical accuracy by displaying the Armenian orphan rug. The rug was presented to President Coolidge on behalf of the Armenian people to honor the US assistance provided during the Armenian genocide. As a result, this cultural treasure has become a symbol of the strong and historic ties between the United States and Armenia.”

For more than a decade, the Armenian Assembly of America has called on the White House and the State Department to facilitate the release of the Armenian Orphan Rug for public display. Following the cancelled exhibition at the Smithsonian, the Assembly embarked on a #ReleaseTheRug campaign and has been working closely with Dr. H. Martin Deranian, author of President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug, in raising awareness of this historic carpet. In addition, the Assembly has displayed in Massachusetts and Florida a “Sister Rug” woven by the same orphans. A presentation of the “Sister Rug” is also planned for California on November 6.

The rug was previously displayed at the White House in 1984 and 1995, but not since.

“The Armenian Orphan Rug, given to President Coolidge as a symbolic thank you for America’s humanitarian relief effort in helping to save the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, is a treasured piece of American history,” stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “As such we welcome the announcement by the White House and look forward to the permanent display of this historic rug.”


Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: