The Theodore Roosevelt Statue has been removed from the New York Museum of Natural History

A statue of Theodore Roosevelt that stood in front of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City for decades was removed, the result of years of debate over a monument that, according to critics, glorified colonialism.

A crane lifted the bronze portion of the statue up from the museum’s Central Park West entrance overnight Wednesday, according to the museum and photos and videos of the removal process.

The statue, by James Earle Fraser, shows the 26th American president on horseback flanked by a Native American man and African man on foot. It was called the “Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt” and was commissioned in 1925 and unveiled in 1940 at the museum, which his father had co-founded.

The museum requested that the statue be removed in June 2020, when the movement for racial justice following the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis prompted many institutions to re-evaluate monuments. Owned by New York City, the statue sat in a public park. The New York City Public Design Commission unanimously approved its removal in June 2021.

The statue, by James Earle Fraser, shows the 26th American president on horseback flanked by a Native American man and African man on foot.


Photo:

Zuma Press

The statue was designed to celebrate Mr. Roosevelt as a devoted naturalist, according to the museum. “At the same time, the statue itself communicates a racial hierarchy that the museum and members of the public have long found disturbing,” the museum says on its website.

The sculpture has been the subject of criticism and debate in the city for many years, with some defending its location and others saying it should be removed. In 2017 and 2018, a New York City commission considered whether to remove the statue. When no agreement was reached, the city eventually held the monument in place and asked the museum to provide further context.

The statue will now be moved to Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora, ND, which will open in 2026. The library’s board says the statue is “problematic in its composition” and lacked context on the steps of the museum in New York, the library said in a statement. In November. The organization plans to set up an advisory council with representatives from blacks and indigenous communities, as well as historians, researchers and artists, to decide how best to place the statue in context at the library.

Theodore Roosevelt V, a descendant of the former president, said in November that he supported the removal of the statue from the front of the museum.

“Instead of burying a troubling work of art, we should learn from it,” he said in a statement shared by the library. “It is fitting that the statue be moved to a place where its composition can be recontextualized to facilitate difficult, complex and inclusive discussions.”

The $ 2 million project to relocate the statue began Tuesday in coordination with historic conservation specialists and city officials, according to a statement from the American Museum of Natural History. The museum plans to restore the stairs in front of the museum this spring.

Workers secured part of the statue after its removal outside the museum entrance.


Photo:

CAITLIN OCHS / REUTERS

The American Museum of Natural History remains the state’s official memorial to Theodore Roosevelt. A rotunda in the museum, with a dinosaur exhibit, is named after him, and a memorial hall displays details of the former president and New York native at four stages of his life.

In 2019, the museum opened an exhibition called “Addressing the Statue”, which contained details about how the bronze monument was created, and shared perspectives from artists, scholars and museum guests on the statue. The physical exhibit closes after Sunday, a spokesman for the museum said, though it remains on the museum’s website.

Statues of historic American people have often given rise to debate in communities around the country. Some Confederate monuments and symbols have been removed in recent years amid debate over whether they celebrate slavery or serve as a history lesson. Statues of other historical figures who owned slaves or participated in the oppression of minority groups have also aroused criticism.

Write to Jennifer Calfas at jennifer.calfas@wsj.com

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