Natural History museum’s Theodore Roosevelt statue headed to North Dakota

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Natural History museum's Theodore Roosevelt statue headed to North Dakota

A controversial statue of President Theodore Roosevelt that has stood in front of the American Museum of Natural History for over 80 years will be relocated to North Dakota.

The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation, which is set to open in 2026, said in a statement that “it has entered into an agreement with the City of New York for the long-term loan and reconsideration of the Equestrian Statue designed by James Earle Fraser.”

The announcement comes five months after the New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously to relocate the bronze effigy of the nation’s 26th president amid claims that it symbolizes colonial subjugation and racial discrimination.

The monument  — which shows Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by an African man and a Native American man — has long been criticized for glorifying colonialism and racism. It was vandalized with paint in 2017.

“We are grateful to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library for proposing a fitting new home for the Equestrian Statue,” Vicki Been, New York City’s deputy mayor for Housing and Economic Development, said in the Friday statement.

“This long-term loan would allow an important part of the city’s art collection to be appropriately contextualized, and we look forward to continuing to work with the library on next steps,” she added.

A statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback flanked by a Native American man, left, and an African man, right.
The monument shows former President Theodore Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by an African man and a Native American man.
Kathy Willens/AP

The library agreed that the “statue is problematic in its composition. Moreover, its current location denies passersby consent and context.

“The agreement with the City allows the TR 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,” the statement added.

Edward O’Keefe, the library foundation’s CEO, said that “museums are supposed to do hard things. It is said that ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,’ and our job is to forthrightly examine history to understand the present and make a better future.”

Statue splattered with red paint.
The statue was vandalized with paint in 2017.
Erik Thomas

In the statement, presidential descendant Theodore Roosevelt V said that the “statue is problematic in its hierarchical depiction of its subjects and should be removed from New York State’s official memorial to Theodore Roosevelt.”

He added: “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.”

Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History, said, “We anticipate that work to remove the Equestrian Statue, which will take several months, will begin later this fall.

Statue.
The New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously to relocate the statue amid claims that it symbolizes colonial subjugation and racial discrimination.
Robert Miller

“We thank the Roosevelt family and the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library for their roles in facilitating this important work,” she added.

Opposition to the statue mounted in recent years, especially after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, a black man whose last breaths under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer sparked a racial reckoning and a wave of protests across the US.

In June 2020, officials at the museum — which is privately run but sits on public land — proposed removing the statue amid nationwide protests over racial inequality and a push to remove public works honoring Confederate leaders.

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