By Carol Tannenhauser
The scaffolding makes it real. The process has begun.
Whether you’re celebrating or mourning, fuming or couldn’t care less, the Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt, as it is formally known, is being removed after 81 years of greeting visitors at the American Museum of Natural History, on 80th Street and Central Park West.
That role of unofficial museum-greeter is part of the reason for its removal, according to the board of directors of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, in Medora, North Dakota, where the statue is being sent on “long-term loan” from New York City. Not everyone feels welcomed by it.
The statue comes with heavy baggage; it has long been a source of anger and protest by individuals and groups who believe it portrays people of color as subservient and inferior — and whites as superior. The statue shows Theodore Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by a Black man and a Native-American man, half clad and on foot.
“The board of the TR Library believes the Equestrian Statue is problematic in its composition,” a press release said. “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.”
Presumably, that process will occur between now and 2026, when the TR Library is scheduled to open.
Members of the Roosevelt family are in favor of the plan. “With their added support, the TR Library will establish an Advisory Council composed of representatives of the Indigenous Tribal and Black communities, historians, scholars, and artists to guide the recontextualization of the statue,” according to the release.
Theodore Roosevelt V, a great-great grandson of the president, said, “Rather than burying a troubling work of art, we ought to learn from it.”
The removal of the statue will be “a multi-month process, including the restoration of the steps,” a spokesperson for the AMNH informed the Rag. (What will the skateboarders do in the meantime?) “We do not have a specific date for removal, but will get back to you as the schedule resolves.”
The Museum will pay the costs of removing the statue, according to The New York Times, which also reported that a design has been approved for a plaque for the empty site.
As one Upper West Side man said, “Farewell or good riddance depends on your point of view.”
Either way, the statue is unlikely to greet as many passers-by as it does today. Medora (pinpointed below) has a population of 129.