Orphan Rug to Go on Display at White House in Near Future

WASHINGTON (Glendale News Press) — After a joint letter from more than 30 members of Congress, a letter from local Armenian leaders, years of community pressure and a petition drive on a website, the White House has agreed to exhibit in the near future, likely this fall, a rug made by Armenian orphans more than 90 years ago, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) said on Wednesday.

The rug, woven by orphans of the Armenian Genocide in 1920, was presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 as a symbol of gratitude for American aid and generosity for U.S. assistance during the genocide.

“It’s an incredibly important historical artifact literally produced by the hands of the survivors of the genocide,” Schiff said by phone Wednesday, adding that he was pleased by the development. “It’s a tangible piece of evidence that speaks volumes about American contributions at the time.”

Measuring 11 feet, 7 inches by 18 feet, 5 inches, the Armenian orphan rug has more than 4 million hand-tied knots and took the Armenian girls in the Ghazir Orphanage of the Near East Relief Society 10 months to weave. It is set to be displayed in an area accessible to the public, Schiff said.

At the time, 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 — was supposed to be released in December for exhibition in a Smithsonian event for the launch of Hagop Martin Deranian’s new book, President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug.

However, the rug was not displayed at that time, raising concerns among the Armenian community and some lawmakers.

The rug not only can teach White House visitors about the genocide, but it also can shed light on the American philanthropic work to support survivors, Schiff said.

Schiff, along with 32 other Congressional members, sent a letter to President Obama in 2013 urging the administration to allow exhibition of the rug.

The Armenian Assembly of America welcomed the development.

News reports surfaced about Turkish pressure on the White House last year and the cancellation of the event, which led to an outcry by Members of Congress, including Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), along with Representatives Schiff (D-CA) and David Valadao (R-CA) who spearheaded a letter to Obama, signed by more than 30 Members of Congress, calling on him to release the rug.

With the Coolidge rug unavailable, the Assembly launched a campaign to display the Armenian Orphan “Sister Rug.” Since then, that rug has been displayed in Boston and Boca Raton, Fla., and was planned to be displayed at an event on Capitol Hill with Schiff in March, but was postponed due to a snowstorm.

“I’m extremely touched,” Deranian said upon learning the news. “I have faith in the American government, that it will do the right thing in the end,” he said.

“The display of this tangible expression of gratitude for America’s humanitarian intervention to save the survivors of the Armenian Genocide is a positive development,” stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.