In June of 2020, amid a national reckoning with problematic monuments, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) requested that the city of New York remove a Theodore Roosevelt statue that has stood at the institution’s main entrance since 1940. The statute—which sits on land owned by the city, not the museum—depicts the 26th president of the US on horseback, flanked by a Native American and an African man who are shirtless and walking on foot beside him. One year later, in June of 2021, the New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously to remove the monument.
On Friday, a statement put out by the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation announced that the statue would be relocated via a long-term loan from the city to the forthcoming Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, which is slated to open in 2026 in Medora, North Dakota, not far from the former location of a cattle ranch once owned by Roosevelt. The monument will be placed in storage until the library opens.
Rather than simply displaying the problematic statue, the library is taking into account its harmful nature. “The board of the [Theodore Roosevelt] Library believes the Equestrian Statue is problematic in its composition. Moreover, its current location denies passersby consent and context. The agreement with the City allows the [Theodore Roosevelt] 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,” read the library’s statement. “With the support of members of the Roosevelt family, the [Theodore Roosevelt] Library will establish an Advisory Council composed of representatives of the Indigenous Tribal and Black communities, historians, scholars and artists to guide the recontextualization of the statue.”
Ellen V. Futter, the president of the AMNH, says the removal process may take several months, but that it will begin as soon as this autumn.
“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,” said Theodore Roosevelt V, the 78-year-old great-great-grandson of the president, who is also a trustee of the museum, in a statement. “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.”