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November 12, 2013

Rep. Schiff to Administration – Armenian Orphan Rug is a Cherished Symbol of Armenian Resilience, A Symbol Worthy of the Smithsonian

Washington DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) called on the Obama Administration to allow exhibition of the “Armenian Orphan Rug” at the Smithsonian Museum. The rug, woven by orphans of the Armenian Genocide in 1920, was presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 as thanks for U.S. assistance during the genocide. The rug – which has been in storage at the White House for decades – was supposed to be released for exhibition in a Smithsonian event for the launch of Hagop Martin Deranian’s new book “President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug.” Unfortunately, the event was cancelled when the White House refused to release the rug for display.

“The decision by the Administration to block display of the Armenian Genocide rug is as inexplicable, as it is hurtful to the Armenian community,” Schiff explained. “The rug is not only a symbol of the resilience of the Armenian people through their darkest days, it also serves as a tangible expression of the inherent truth that not only were 1.5 million people killed in the first genocide of the 20th Century, but that the American government was a central player in efforts to call attention to the plight of the Armenian people and provide relief to survivors.”

The Administration has been reluctant to call the Armenian Genocide what it was, a genocide, and this latest decision to keep the rug out of the Smithsonian comes without explanation. 

Schiff continued, “The rug deserves to be on display and the millions affected by the genocide deserve the chance to see it – it’s my hope that the Administration will decide to allow the rug, a symbol worthy of the Smithsonian, to be released.”

Schiff and Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) sent a letter, along with 31 other Members, to President Obama urging him to allow exhibition of the rug. The full letter is below, and can be found here:

Dear Mr. President:

As Members of Congress who represent America’s Armenian community, we write to inquire about numerous reports that the White House has blocked the exhibition of an important Armenian Genocide-era icon of shared American and Armenian history scheduled to open December 16th; the “Armenian Orphan Rug.”

This historic rug was hand-woven by orphans of the Armenian Genocide in an American-sponsored orphanage run by an U.S. charity created by an act of Congress. The rug, which has over 4,000,000 hand-tied knots, was presented, in 1925 to President Calvin Coolidge as a symbol of gratitude for American aid and generosity.  President 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 presentation of the rug to President Coolidge enjoyed wide publicity including in The New York Times and resulted in millions of dollars being raised for humanitarian assistance.

The Armenian Orphan Rug is a piece of American history and it belongs to the American people. For over 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. We look forward to working with you to ensure this important piece of American and Armenian history is publicly displayed and we eagerly await your response. 


Members of Congress