White House Won’t Lend Smithsonian a 1925 Rug Woven by Armenian Genocide Orphans


A special book launch event at the Smithsonian has been cancelled due to the White House’s refusal to lend out the Armenian Orphan Rug, according to the Washington Post. The book, “President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug,” by Dr. Hapog Martin Deranian, looks at the history surrounding the creation of the rug and the Near East Foundation — a U.S.-sponsored program to help orphans of the 1915 genocide of the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire. The efforts of the Near East Relief Organization raised over $100 million between 1915 and 1930, and saved over one million refugees, including 100,000 orphans.

The October 20th release of the book was meant to include the Smithsonian event and the display of the rug — woven by refugee orphans who were aided by the United States. The rug was presented to President Calvin Coolidge at the White House in 1925.

It remains there, in storage, though no explanation has been provided as to why the White House curators are refusing to lend it out for the occasion. In a statement they offered little insight into the decision: “The Ghazir rug is a reminder of the close relationship between the peoples of Armenia and the United States. We regret that it is not possible to loan it out at this time.”

— Meredith Caraher

(Image: Detail from the cover of “President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug.”)