NEW YORK — After years of criticism, a statue of Theodore Roosevelt is being removed from the entrance of the American Museum of Natural History.
The New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously in June to relocate the bronze statue, which depicts the former president on horseback with a Native American man and an African man flanking the horse. Later in 2021, the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota agreed to take the statue as part of a long-term loan.
The statue was designed by James Earle Fraser and had stood at the steps of the museum since 1940. Objections to it grew more forceful in recent years, especially after the murder of George Floyd sparked a wave of protests across the U.S.
According to NBC and NPR, work started earlier this week, and the statue was removed by Thursday. A museum spokesperson told both outlets that the process, including restoration of the plaza where the statue stood, will continue through the spring.
The library is expected to open in 2026 in Medora, North Dakota. In a November statement, the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation said members of Roosevelt's family supported the decision to relocate the statue.
“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,” Theodore Roosevelt V said in the 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.”
The TRPLF said that the statue's New York City location "denies passersby consent and context." As part of the agreement, the library will store the statue while considering a way to display it as a tool for studying the past. It plans to establish an advisory council with "representatives of the Indigenous Tribal and Black communities, historians, scholars, and artists to guide the recontextualization of the statue."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.