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'Height Is Power,' and So Statue of Roosevelt Will Go

It has stood outside NYC's American Museum of Natural History since 1940
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2021 10:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – Visitors about to enter the American Museum of Natural History in New York will no longer be greeted by Theodore Roosevelt atop a horse with a Native American and African man by his side. In a unanimous Monday vote, the New York City Public Design Commission decided the controversial statue would be given on long-term loan to a to-be-decided institution that is "publicly accessible" and has a "relevant connection" to Roosevelt. What to do with it has been the subject of formal debate since 2017, reports the New York Times, with the commission stating in a 2018 report that "height is power in public art, and Roosevelt's stature on his noble steed visibly expresses dominance and superiority over the Native American and African figures." But a number of panel members requested that more historical research be done before a decision was made.

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As that research was conducted, the effort to remove it gained steam: The museum itself came out on the "remove" side last June, and both New York City (the statue is on city-owned land) and Mayor Bill de Blasio backed up that position. The AP reports the bronze statue of Roosevelt, a founding member of the museum, has been at the entrance since 1940, and Hyperallegic notes one argument of those who wanted the statue to stay is that sculptor James Earle Fraser at the time said his goal was to present "Roosevelt's friendliness to all races." But at Monday's meeting, a museum official stated that the various heights of the figures "[appear] to depict the superiority of the white race," and its position at the entrance conveys "endorsement of this content and perceived content, undermining the museum's mission." (Read more Theodore Roosevelt stories.)

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