Last June, the New York City Public Design Commission gave the final approval to remove the Theodore Roosevelt Statue from the entrance of the American Museum of Natural History. This followed a unanimous vote which was taken in May by Community Board 7’s Preservation Committee to have the Equestrian Statue of Roosevelt removed. Now we know where the statue is going: Medora, North Dakota, where it will be “recontextualized with input from Indigenous and Black people, historians, scholars and artists,” the New York Times first reported.
The American Museum of Natural History began the relocation effort in June 2020 following growing protests for racial justice paired with an increased national focus on the removal of controversial figures. “The Statue has long been controversial because of the hierarchical composition that places one figure on horseback and the others walking alongside, and many of us find its depictions of the Native American and African figures and their placement in the monument racist,” read a statement by the AMNH when they first proposed the change.
There has also been significant public opposition to move the statue. Last June we reported the protest led by the New York Young Republican Group which took place in front of the museum. Other objectors launched petitions on change.org – while others voiced their concerns in our comments section.
The statue has been vandalized on multiple occasions, including last month when red paint was sprayed on the statue, leading the NYPD to station a police vehicle at the site. City workers used a power washer with soap to clean it off after the incident. The statue was also defaced with red paint in October 2017.
“Museums are supposed to do hard things,” said Edward F. O’Keefe, the chief executive of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation, in a statement on Friday. “Our job is to forthrightly examine history to understand the present and make a better future.”
The library in Medora, North Dakota is expected to open in 2026. While the statue still stands at the AMNH with no official removal date set, it will be put in storage until it’s redisplayed at the library. Also included in the O’Keefe statement from Friday was a quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s great-great grandson, Theodore Roosevelt V, which read, “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.”
The Theodore Roosevelt Equestrian Statue was commissioned in 1925 and designed by American sculptor James Earle Fraser. The statue has stood on the steps of the museum, overlooking Central Park since its unveiling in 1940.