Crews began dismantling the controversial statue of former US president Theodore Roosevelt that has long stood outside the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on the evening of 18 January, working late into the night before removing the first part of the sculpture by crane. The following night, the rest of it was removed, leaving only its pedestal encircled by scaffolding.
The statue’s removal, which will be followed by a restoration of the museum’s entry plaza through the spring, a spokesperson for the museum told NPR, follows years of activism by groups objecting to the statue’s racist imagery; Roosevelt, on horseback, is depicted flanked by two shirtless men, one Native American the other of African descent, on foot. As the museum’s website notes, “the statue itself communicates a racial hierarchy that the Museum and members of the public have long found disturbing”.
In June 2020, amid a nationwide reckoning with the racist attitudes enshrined in many public monuments throughout the US, AMNH—at whose front door the statue had stood for around 80 years, though the site is actually controlled by New York City—requested that the municipality remove it. A year later, the city’s Public Design Commission voted unanimously in favor of removing it.
The statue is being held in New York for the time being, according to NPR, while it is prepared for transportation to its future home in the coming weeks. The bronze sculpture will join the collection of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora, North Dakota, when it opens in 2026 at a site near where Roosevelt once owned a ranch.
“Rather than burying a troubling work of art, we ought to learn from it,” Theodore Roosevelt V, the president’s great-great-grandson, said in a statement last November, when the long-term plans for the statue were announced. “It is fitting that the statue is being relocated to a place where its composition can be recontextualised to facilitate difficult, complex, and inclusive discussions.”