The Armenian Rug – how one object can reveal the complex history of genocide

The other day I heard a World Service documentary about a rug made by orphans of the Armenian genocide to thank President Coolidge for letting them reside in the US. A photo of Coolidge stood on the rug is shown to the right.

This is interesting enough object on its own but the continuing story of the rug is fascinating. The rug has remained in storage at the White House for nearly it’s entire life. In 1995 a woman whose mother was one of the orphans who made it requested to see it and said it was in good condition. Last year a new book about the rug was released and the launch event at the Smithsonian was supposed to have the rug in attendance, but last minute the White House refused to release it. Why? No one really knows but there is much speculation that the US do not want to offend the Turkish government who still refuse to recognise the events of 1915 as a genocide.

This a great little story and yet again shows how the history of a single object can reveal the wider complexities of the past. It also very importantly reveals that genocide is still a very politically sensitive topic that is relevant and current in the modern day. Equally it reveals an example of a genocide that many of our students who will solely focus on the Holocaust will be entirely naive of.

If, like me, you think this is a good story and that it would benefit your students I’ve created a simple lesson using the PowerPoint below that through lots of discussion can build to a written activity where students explain what this rug shows us about genocide in the 20th century. It could be a quick starter or with wider discussion could last a lesson. I hope a few of you find it useful.

Armenian Rug Lesson

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