In June, the New York City Community Design Commission decided: after more than 80 years of leading the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History, a bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback, surrounded by an Indian and African. man descending.
The statue’s future home has now been determined: It is to travel to Medora, North Dakota, where it will eventually be displayed at the new Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, located near Roosevelt’s former cattle ranches in the Badlands, as a long-term loan from the city. New York.
“Museums are supposed to do heavy things,” Edward O’Keeffe, executive director of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation, said Friday. “Our job is to directly explore history in order to understand the present and build a better future.”
The library, slated to open in 2026 in Medora (population 129), will offer both years and miles of distance from the statue at the entrance to one of New York’s most famous museums.
The statue, designed by American sculptor James Earl Fraser, has stood on the steps of the museum since 1940 overlooking West Central Park. However, in recent years, she has become the target of protests from those who regard her as a symbol of peace. colonialism.
“Height is a force in public art, and Roosevelt’s rise on his noble horse clearly expresses dominance and superiority over Native American and African figures,” wrote a Mayor’s Commission reviewing monuments and signposts on city property in a 2018 report. (It was ultimately decided to leave the statue in place with added context.)
The statue will be kept until it appears when the library opens. (The long-term loan agreement and any plans for the placement of the statue are subject to final approval by the city’s Public Design Commission.)
With the support of the Roosevelt family, the library will also set up an advisory board made up of indigenous and black representatives, as well as historians, scholars and artists, to determine how to remodel the statue.
“It is only fitting that the statue is moved to a place where its composition can be reconstructed to facilitate complex, complex and pervasive discussions,” the president’s great-grandson, Theodore Roosevelt V.
The deal comes after the Public Design Commission voted unanimously in June to remove the statue and move it to a cultural institution dedicated to the life and legacy of the former president. The museum acknowledged that the image was problematic and, after years of opposition from activists and amid urgent nationwide talk of racism, proposed removing the statue in June 2020. The City of New York, which owns the building and property, agreed to the proposal, and Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed his support.
Vicki Ben, the city’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said the loan “will appropriately contextualize an important part of the city’s art collection.”
American Museum of Natural History President Ellen W. Futter said the museum expects the removal process, which will take several months, to begin later this fall. (Ann Canty, the museum’s spokeswoman, said in an email that the museum would pay for its removal, and that the commission had approved a plaque for the site, as well as the restoration of the steps.)
The announcement came amid a national debate over the appropriateness of statues or monuments, which initially focused on Confederate officials such as Robert E. Lee and then expanded to a wider circle of figures such as Christopher Columbus or Winston Churchill. City officials unanimously voted last month to remove the Thomas Jefferson statue from New York City Council Chambers, citing his history as a slave owner, and several other Jefferson statues were removed or destroyed in the past year, including in Oregon and Georgia. (A statue of the New York City Council will find a home at the Historical Society of New York.)
The American Museum of Natural History is also re-evaluating exhibits in its halls.
In January 2020, the museum relocated the Great Canoe of the Northwest Coast from the 77th Street entrance to this room to better understand its context. The Old New York Museum’s diorama, which includes the stereotypical depiction of Lenape leaders, now also has captions explaining why the exhibit is offensive.