Addressing the Statue exhibit exploring the controversial Roosevelt statue in Central Park. Photo courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History.

The American Museum of Natural History has vowed to shed light on the controversial Roosevelt monument, and the history surrounding it, in their new exhibit, “Addressing the Statue”. Towering over the Central Park West entrance, the statue is meant to honor the descent of a founding member of the American Museum of Natural History: Theodore Roosevelt. Without context, there is seemingly nothing wrong with a statue depicting the 26th president of the United States. But, when coupled with the history of racist comments and the fact that the statue portrays Roosevelt astride a horse with a Native American man and an African man standing below him on either side, the monument has been deemed a glorification of the colonialism and racial hierarchy that characterizes the establishment of the United States.

The statue is viewed by many as an outdated relic of a different, intolerant time period. With the stirring national conversation about the glorification of racist or problematic figures in American history, the “Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt” was one of four controversial memorials up for reconsideration by the New York City Council in 2017. The ultimate decision of the council was to leave the statue, but add context about Roosevelt’s, and the country’s, history dealing in racism and colonialism.

It’s more important to tell the truth about [the president] — pleasant or unpleasant — than about anyone else. -Theodore Roosevelt

This is part of a quote that spans a wall across the exhibit, which explores the timeline, history, and background of the statues commission and installation. Accompanied by a video and interactive website, “Addressing the Statue” allows for the museum to recognize the country’s, and at times the museum’s, history of racist complicity. Exploring both the proponents of removing the statue and the arguments made to keep it in place, the exhibit is meant to spark conversation and thoughtful reflection on the place of these controversial memorials in the contemporary United States.

The exhibit will be open indefinitely in the National History Museum’s Akeley Gallery.

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