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Removal of Natural History Museum’s Roosevelt Statue Approved by NYC Commission

A year ago, the American Museum of Natural History in New York announced that it would begin taking steps to remove the statue of former President Theodore Roosevelt that stands at its entrance. Now, the statue’s removal has cleared the final hurdle that will allow for it to be permanently deinstalled from its current spot.

In a meeting this week, the New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously to authorize the statue’s removal, according to a report by the Art Newspaper. Because the Roosevelt monument sits on city land, the museum had to request approval from city officials. It had received the go-ahead from the mayor’s office earlier this year, but still needed approval from the Public Design Commission, the agency that manages all architecture and art on city-owned property.

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The museum had also received the endorsement of Theodore Roosevelt IV, a trustee and the great-grandson of the former president, for the statue’s removal. In a statement at the time, he said. “The world does not need statues, relics of another age, that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor nor the values of equality and justice.”

[The Roosevelt Statue Controversy, Explained.]

Despite this week’s vote, the museum has still not offered an exact timeline as to when the statue will be removed or where it will go. An AMNH spokesperson told the Art Newspaper, “The statue is intended to be relocated to a cultural institution, or its grounds, dedicated to the life and legacy of Theodore Roosevelt. Discussions concerning storage and ultimate destination are ongoing.”

The Roosevelt statue shows the former U.S. president mounted on a horse in an elegant and steadfast pose. At his right is an Indigenous man and at his left is a Black man. Both are depicted shirtless while Roosevelt is shown fully clothed. Many critics have called this depiction racist and claimed that it renders two people of color subservient to Roosevelt. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has described the statue’s depiction of these two men as “subjugated and racially inferior.”

The AMNH’s announcement last year came after years of protest calling for the statue’s removal that had been organized by Decolonize This Place each Indigenous Peoples Day since 2016. In 2017, a separate group of protestors, working under the name the Monument Removal Brigade, threw red liquid at the statue to call attention to what they saw as the statue being “bloody at its very foundation.” The calls for the statue’s removal grew louder amid the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd last summer.

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