Roosevelt Statue to Be Removed From Museum of Natural History


The bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt, on horseback and flanked by a Native American man and an African man, which has presided over the doorway to the American Museum of Natural History in New York since 1940, is coming down.

The resolution, proposed by the museum and agreed to by New York City, which owns the constructing and property, got here after years of objections from activists and at a time when the killing of George Floyd has initiated an pressing nationwide dialog about racism.

For many, the equestrian statue on the museum’s Central Park West entrance has come to symbolize a painful legacy of colonial enlargement and racial discrimination.

“Over the last few weeks, our museum community has been profoundly moved by the ever-widening movement for racial justice that has emerged after the killing of George Floyd,” the museum’s president, Ellen V. Futter, stated in an interview. “We have watched as the attention of the world and the country has increasingly turned to statues as powerful and hurtful symbols of systemic racism.”

Ms. Futter made clear that the museum’s resolution was primarily based on the statue itself — namely its “hierarchical composition”—- and not on Roosevelt, whom the museum continues to honor as “a pioneering conservationist.”

“Simply put,” she added, “the time has come to move it.”

The museum took action amid a heated national debate over the appropriateness of statues or monuments that first focused on Confederate symbols like Robert E. Lee and has now moved on to a wider arc of figures, from Christopher Columbus to Winston Churchill.

Last week alone, a crowd set fire to a statue of George Washington in Portland, Ore., before pulling it to the ground. Gunfire broke out during a protest in Albuquerque to demand the removal of a statue of Juan de Oñate, the despotic conquistador of New Mexico. And New York City Council members demanded that a statue of Thomas Jefferson be removed from City Hall.

In many of those cases, the calls for removal were made by protesters who say the images are too offensive to stand as monuments to American history. The decision about the Roosevelt statue is different, made by a museum that, like others, had previously defended — and preserved — such portraits as relics of their time that however objectionable, could perhaps serve to educate. It was then seconded by the city, which had the final say.

“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”

When the monument will be taken down, where it will go and what, if anything, will replace it, remain undetermined, officials said.

A Roosevelt family member released a statement approving the removal.

“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,” said Theodore Roosevelt IV, age 77, a great-grandson of the 26th president and a museum trustee. “The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward.”

The museum’s exhibition about the statue was partly a response to the defacing of it by protesters, who in 2017 splashed red liquid representing blood over the statue’s base. The protesters, who identified themselves as members of the Monument Removal Brigade, later published a statement on the internet calling for its removal as an emblem of “patriarchy, white supremacy and settler-colonialism.”

“Now the statue is bleeding,” the statement said. “We did not make it bleed. It is bloody at its very foundation.”

The group also said the museum should “rethink its cultural halls regarding the colonial mentality behind them.”

At the time, the museum said complaints should be channeled through Mayor de Blasio’s commission to review city monuments and that the museum was planning to update its exhibits. The institution has since undertaken a renovation of its North West Coast Hall in consultation with Native nations from the North West Coast of Canada and Alaska.

In January, the museum also moved the Northwest Coast Great Canoe from its 77th Street entrance into that hall, to better contextualize it. The museum’s Old New York diorama, which includes a stereotypical depiction of Lenape leaders, now has captions explaining why the display is offensive.

Mayor de Blasio has made a point of rethinking public monuments to honor more women and people of color — an undertaking led largely by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and the She Built NYC commission. But these efforts have also been controversial, given complaints about the transparency of the process and the public figures who have been excluded, namely Mother Cabrini, a patron saint of immigrants who had drawn the most nominations in a survey of New Yorkers.



Source link Nytimes.com

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