History museum

Museum of Natural History’s Theodore Roosevelt statue heads to North Dakota

A controversial statue of President Theodore Roosevelt that has stood outside the American Museum of Natural History for more than 80 years will be moved to North Dakota.

The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation, which is scheduled to open in 2026, said in a press release that “he has entered into an agreement with New York City for the long-term loan and review of the equestrian statue designed by James Earle Fraser”.

The announcement comes five months after the New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously to move the bronze effigy of the country’s 26th president amid claims it symbolizes colonial subjugation and racial discrimination.

The monument – which shows Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by an African and a Native American – has long been criticized for its glorification of colonialism and racism. It was vandalized with paint in 2017.

“We are grateful to Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library for proposing a suitable new home for the equestrian statue,” Vicki Been, Deputy Mayor of New York City for Housing and Economic Development, said in the Friday statement. .

“This long-term loan would allow a significant portion of the city’s art collection to be contextualized in an appropriate way, and we look forward to continuing to work with the library on the next steps,” she said. added.

The monument shows former President Theodore Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by an African man and a Native American.
Kathy Willens / AP

The library agreed that the “statue is problematic in its composition. Additionally, its current location denies the consent and background of passers-by.

“The agreement with the city allows the TR Library to move the statue for storage while considering a display that would allow it to serve as an important tool for studying the nation’s past,” the statement added.

Edward O’Keefe, CEO of the Libraries Foundation, said that “museums are supposed to do difficult things. It is said that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, and our job is to frankly examine history to understand the present and create a better future. “

Statue splashed with red paint.
The statue was vandalized with paint in 2017.
Erik Thomas

In the statement, presidential descendant Theodore Roosevelt V said “the statue is problematic in its hierarchical representation of its subjects and should be removed from the official New York State memorial to Theodore Roosevelt.”

He added: “Rather than burying a disturbing work of art, we should learn from it. It is normal for the statue to be moved to a place where its composition can be recontextualized to facilitate difficult, complex and inclusive discussions. “

Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History, said, “We expect work to remove the equestrian statue, which will take several months, to begin later this fall.

Statue.
The New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously to move the statue amid claims it symbolizes colonial subjugation and racial discrimination.
Robert miller

“We thank the Roosevelt family and Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library for their role in facilitating this important work,” she added.

Opposition to the statue mounted in recent years, especially after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, a black man whose last breaths below the knee of a white Minneapolis policeman sparked racial reckoning and a wave of protests across United States.

In June 2020, officials at the museum – which is privately run but sits on public land – offered to remove the statue amid nationwide protests against racial inequalities and pressure to remove the works audiences honoring Confederate leaders.


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