Theodore Roosevelt statue removed from NYC’s Museum of Natural History

Posted On Fri, January 21, 2022 By

Posted On Fri, January 21, 2022 By In Museums, Upper West Side 

Photo © Olivia Lemons

The statue of Theodore Roosevelt that has stood on the steps of the American Museum of Natural History for more than eight decades was removed this week. The city’s Public Design Commission voted last summer to take down and relocate the statue, seen as racist for its depiction of Roosevelt on horseback flanked by a Native American figure and an African figure. The bronze statue will soon be shipped to Medora, N.D., where it will be displayed at the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, set to open in 2026.

Photo © Olivia Lemons

According to the New York Times, the removal process cost roughly $2 million and was overseen by historic preservation specialists. The statue will be shipped to its new North Dakota home in a few weeks.

The deal reached between the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and New York City allows for the temporary relocation of the statue to storage while it develops a plan for displaying it. The library said it has support from the Roosevelt family to establish an advisory board made up of Indigenous Tribal and Black communities, historians, scholars, and artists to “guide the recontextualization of the statue.”

In 1920, following Roosevelt’s death, the New York State Legislature established the Roosevelt Memorial Commission with the goal of expressing the former president’s “life as a nature lover, naturalist, explorer and author of works of natural history,” according to the museum.

Designed by James Earle Fraser, the Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt was unveiled on the city-owned steps of the museum in 1940. Activists have called for the removal of the statue for several decades.

After white supremacists protested in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the city’s plan to remove a Robert E. Lee statue, former Mayor Bill de Blasio convened the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers. The commission concluded the Roosevelt statue did not have to be removed but required additional context.

In response, the museum opened the “Addressing the Statue” exhibition to add context to the statue and examine its racial hierarchy. As 6sqft previously reported, calls for the removal of the statue were revived following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and amid a nationwide conversation on racism in America.

“The Statue has long been controversial because of the hierarchical composition that places one figure on horseback and the others walking alongside, and many of us find its depictions of the Native American and African figures and their placement in the monument racist,” AMNH officials wrote on the museum’s website in 2020.

The Roosevelt family has supported the removal of the statue. “The Equestrian Statue is problematic in its hierarchical depiction of its subjects and should be removed from New York State’s official memorial to Theodore Roosevelt,” Theodore Roosevelt V said in a statement announcing the statue’s relocation to North Dakota.

“Rather than burying a troubling work of art, we ought to learn from it. It is fitting that the statue is being relocated to a place where its composition can be recontextualized to facilitate difficult, complex, and inclusive discussions.”


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Neighborhoods : Upper West Side



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