A decision has been made regarding the relocation of a controversial statue of President Theodore Roosevelt currently located outside the Central Park West entrance of New York’s American Museum of Natural History.
The decision has been made to move the statue to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, where it will remain on a long-term loan. Set to open in 2026 in Medora, North Dakota, the agreement between it and the American Museum of Natural History will allow the library to relocate the statue for storage “while considering a display that would enable it to serve as an important tool to study the nation’s past.”
“We are grateful to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library for proposing a fitting new home for the Equestrian Statue,” said Vicki Been, New York’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, in a statement. “This long-term loan would allow an important part of the City’s art collection to be appropriately contextualized, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Library on next steps.”
The statue’s removal from its position outside the museum in New York City was announced in June 2020, after it was criticized for its depiction of racism and colonialism. It was erected in 1940, and features Roosevelt on horseback with an African-American man and a Native American man walking by his side.
At the time, Mayor Bill de Blasio supported the decision to move the statue, saying in a statement:
“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior. The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”
Roosevelt’s descendants also support the removal, with his great-grandson telling the New York Times that “the world does not need statues, relics of another age, that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor nor the values of equality and justice. The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to remove the statue and move forward.”
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The removal, which is slated to take several months, will be conducted by the museum, in coordination with the city, and is subject to final approval by New York’s Public Design Commission. Once approved, the library plans to establish an advisory council, made up of Indigenous tribal and Black communities, scholars, artists and historians “to guide the recontextualization of the statue.”