Rep. Sherman Calls for Permanent Display of Orphan Rug at Smithsonian

Congressman Brad Sherman

Criticizes White House’s ‘Inexplicable’ Decision not to Loan out the Rug

WASHINGTON—Congressman Brad Sherman, in a letter to President Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough criticizing the White House’s decision to keep the Armenian Orphan Rug in storage, has called for the permanent public display of this historic artwork at the Smithsonian Institution, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Noting that, “an exhibit to display this relic at the Smithsonian was canceled due to the White House’s inexplicable decision not to loan out the rug,” Representative Sherman stressed that, “this unique work should not be hidden away in storage. Instead, it should be displayed on a permanent basis at the Smithsonian. It is in our national interest to recognize and remember the past. We must acknowledge and learn from the tragic crimes against humanity that orphaned the weavers of this rug to ensure that they are never repeated. I urge the White House to take this intricate piece of history out of storage and to display it at the Smithsonian permanently.”

“We join with Armenian Americans in California and across America in thanking Congressman Sherman for his principled leadership in seeking a prominent and permanent public display for this powerful artistic symbol of shared American and Armenian heritage,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian

The full text of Congressman Sherman’s letter is provided below.

The ANCA launched a grassroots campaign yesterday calling upon the White House and Congress to secure a prominent and permanent public display of the historic rug, woven by Armenian Genocide orphans and presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 in appreciation for U.S. humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of Turkey’s murder of over 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923.

Armenian Americans can take action by visiting anca.org/orphanrug.

The Armenian orphan rug measures 11’7″ x 18’5″ and is comprised of 4,404,206 individual knots. It took the Armenian girls in the Ghazir Orphanage of the Near East Relief Society ten months to weave. A label on the back of the rug, in large hand-written letters, reads “IN GOLDEN RULE GRATITUDE TO PRESIDENT COOLIDGE.”

Additional information about the history of the Armenian Orphan Rug is available in Dr. Hagop Martin Deranian’s book, President Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug, published on October 20, 2013, by the Armenian Cultural Foundation and soon to be available on Amazon.com.

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Text of Letter by Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) to the White House Urging Permanent Display of the Armenian Orphan Rug

October 25, 2013

Mr. Denis McDonough
Chief of Staff to the President
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. McDonough,

I write to urge you to allow the public to view an important artifact of both United States and world history – a rug woven by orphans of the Armenian Genocide.  Hundreds of thousands of children were orphaned when the Ottoman Empire attempted to annihilate the Armenian population of Eastern Anatolia during World War I and its aftermath.  This rug was presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 for the U.S.-sponsored Near East Relief organization’s work in protecting and relocating more than 100,000 children who were left orphaned as a result of the Armenian Genocide.

The “Orphan Rug” has been in storage at the White House for almost two decades. An exhibit to display this relic at the Smithsonian was canceled due to the White House’s inexplicable decision not to loan out the rug.  This unique work should not be hidden away in storage.  Instead, it should be displayed on a permanent basis at the Smithsonian.

It is in our national interest to recognize and remember the past.  We must acknowledge and learn from the tragic crimes against humanity that orphaned the weavers of this rug to ensure that they are never repeated.  I urge the White House to take this intricate piece of history out of storage and to display it at the Smithsonian permanently.

Sincerely,

[signed]
Brad Sherman
Member of Congress

cc: Secretary G. Wayne Clough, The Smithsonian Institution

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2 Comments

  1. Vanessa Kachadurian said:

    Thank you Congressman Brad Sherman. This rug is of significant importance to USA History as it was the US Congress that voted in the “Near East Relief” to raise funds with Nestle Foods and child actor Jackie Coogan, to care for specifically 134,000 Armenian Orphans.
    There is bills of lading, photos, and shiping information regarding the supplies sent to care for the Armenian orphans. Extensive records and photos of the Orphans and Widows are available in the Library of Congress. To show gratitude the orphans hand weaved this rug and presented it to the then President Calvin Coolidge, to have their memory discarded by rolling up this rug and stuffed away in storage somewhere is not what America is about. The Orphan Rug was to show the humanitarian example that America played in the Ottoman era genocide of not just Armenians, but Pontic Greeks, Greeks, Assyrians, Kurds, and many other indigenous people.
    America needs to show it’s place in the world as humanitarians, expecially as our reputation and foreign policy is not too popular these days. We are the USA we don’t cave in to political pressure from foreign countries, the truth is the truth. Because the current Republic of Turkey was formed from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, doesnt’ give Turkey the right to have a clean slate from 1923 forward. Same with the USA we may officially be over 200 years old 1776, but the USA had a dark past with our treatment of Native Americans (Genocide) and African Americans not to mention Japanese American policies during WW2. Yet we openly discuss this and talk about our history, the good, the bad and the ugly. Learn from it and hopefully never repeat it again.
    The Smithsonian must display this beautiful carpet, along with the multitude of other Armenian orphan handicrafts that are available. Along with Dr. Deranian’s book “Orphan Rug” for sale and showing of the documentary that is based on research from the Library of Congress-Near East Relief “Orphans of the Genocide” by film maker Bared Maronian, the documentary has many American descendants of the missionaries that went overseas to help the Armenian Orphans. Their Grandchildren all non-Armenians have books, diaries and photos of their parents and grandparents time working to support the survival of the first Christian Nation and insure that the children that were not Turkified or scattered into moslem homes with new identities were taught these crafts and learned reading/writing and technical skills to survive on their own and to build a family and new community.
    Let the story be told of survival and America’s part in their FIRST humanitarian effort “Near East Relief”

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