Dr. Deranian Discusses Orphan Rug at Armenian Museum

WATERTOWN, Mass. — The Armenian Orphan Rug… “still remains orphaned,” as Dr. Hagop Deranian said during his presentation at the opening of the Armenian Museum of America’s latest exhibit on Sunday, February 17 of several of those so-called “Orphan Rugs.” He said he was hopeful, though, that the rug would eventually find its rightful place on display at the White House.

As the story goes, the rug was woven in the 1920s by Armenian orphans of Ghazir Orphanage, located in Lebanon, run by the Near East Foundation. It was presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 as expression of the orphans’ gratitude for the United States’ assistance through the Near East Foundation in the aftermath of the Genocide. In 1929 the rug was removed from the White House by Coolidge. It was returned many years later, but still remains under lock and key of the White House, not on display nor available for outside showings.

Deranian’s book, President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug, sheds light on the facts surrounding the orphanage in Ghazir, the history behind the making of those rugs and the remarkable story of one particular rug which made its way to the White House and remains to be one of its truly well guarded treasures.

Deranian’s lecture on Sunday served as an informative yet emotional preamble to the exhibit of the five “orphan rugs.” Touching one of those rugs is “like getting in touch with our history,” Deranian said during the tour of the museum’s second-floor gallery, where the rugs are displayed. There is so much history, mystery, and poise in each of them. Each of them is unique in its color and design, yet they are all tied together by the same history of making. Gary and Susan Lind-Sinanian joined Deranian in guiding the tour and providing remarks on the items of the exhibit.

In the row of displayed rugs, an empty spot on the wall was saved for the White House rug which the museum management was hoping to obtain. The request was rejected by the White House.

The exhibit will remain until May 25.

— Ani Hovsepian