And that included right here in NYC. A petition to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus from Columbus Circle as well as rename the area has been continuously shared, and the famous statue that sits in front of the iconic American Museum of Natural History has finally been removed months later, as requested by the museum itself.
The statue depicts former New York State Governor and President of the U.S., Theodore Roosevelt, riding on horseback with an Indigenous man and an African man standing below him on either side. The Museum said that many, including the institution itself, “find its depictions of the…figures and their placement in the monument racist.”
The Museum released a statement on June 21, 2020 requesting its removal, and former Mayor Bill de Blasio also confirmed the news the same day (since the statue is owned by the city). Though the museum President said they expected the several month long removal of the statue to take place this fall, it wasn’t until last week that the $2 million removal process began. The statue is now detached from its pedestal after 82 years at the museum’s front.
This November, it was shared that the statue will be relocated to a new presidential library in North Dakota. According to the Times, the statue will be held in storage until it is shipped to the presidential library in a matter of weeks.
The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library (“TR Library”) is expected to open in 2026 in North Dakota, which has made an agreement with the City of New York for a long-term loan of the statue. A press release also shared that members of the Roosevelt family are supportive of this decision, and that though it will be put in storage for now, the library is considering a display that “would enable it to serve as an important tool to study the nation’s past.” If so, an Advisory Council with representatives of the Indigenous Tribal and Black communities, historians, scholars, and artists would guide the “recontextualization of the statue.”
Here is an excerpt that explains the Museum’s reasoning, you can read the full explanation here.
“As part of a national conversation about problematic public monuments, and following the report of the Mayor’s Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers, the Museum is providing new context and perspectives, presenting the history and rationale for the statue while explicitly acknowledging its troubling aspects. To understand the statue, we must recognize our country’s enduring legacy of racial discrimination—as well as Roosevelt’s troubling views on race. We must also acknowledge the Museum’s own imperfect history. Such an effort does not excuse the past but it can create a foundation for honest, respectful, open dialogue. We hope this exhibition, together with other efforts to address cultural representation at the Museum, will inspire such discussion.”
According to the Museum, the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers reviewed problematic statues across the city to determine if any should be removed back in 2017. The Roosevelt statue was included in this, but the commission did not reach a consensus. The Museum opened a thorough examination on the meaning and history of the statue in their exhibit “Addressing the Statue,” but say that “in the current moment, it is abundantly clear that this approach is not sufficient.”