WASHINGTON, DC — In a new twist to efforts to call attention to the Armenian genocide, a group of lawmakers has accused the Obama administration of blocking a Smithsonian display of a rug woven by orphans of the mass killings about a century ago, The Los Angeles Times writes.
The lawmakers have written to President Obama urging him to make available the rug, presented in 1925 to President Calvin Coolidge and in storage as part of the White House collection, for exhibition. The bipartisan group includes more than a dozen representatives from California, which has a large Armenian American population.
The roughly 12-foot-by-18-foot Armenian Orphan Rug was to be featured in a Dec. 16 exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington that sought to call attention to a new book about the rug by Hagop Martin Deranian titled “President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug.” The lawmakers had called a “pivotal icon related to the Armenian Genocide.”
The event was cancelled when the White House refused to release the rug for display.
A White House spokeswoman said Tuesday that displaying the rug “for only half a day in connection with a private book launch event, as proposed, would have been an inappropriate use of U.S. government property, would have required the White House to undertake the risk of transporting the rug for limited public exposure, and was not viewed as commensurate with the rug’s historical significance.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) was oneof the lawmakers who had called on the Obama Administration to allow exhibition of the “Armenian Orphan Rug” at the Smithsonian. “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.”
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.”