Natural history museum to reopen Roosevelt memorial Oct. 27

New York - Theodore Roosevelt had a lifelong association with the American Museum of Natural History that began when he was a young boy and donated 12 mice, a bat, a turtle, four bird eggs and the skull of a red squirrel to the venerable institution that his father helped found.

"He literally grew up with the American Museum of Natural History being created," said Roosevelt biographer Douglas Brinkley.

To newly honor that long partnership, the museum is reopening its Theodore Roosevelt Memorial on Oct. 27 after a yearlong restoration. The date would have been Roosevelt's 154th birthday.

The memorial is a two-story space that encompasses the façade exterior, the rotunda, the North American Mammals hall and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall.

A new life-size bronze statue of the 26th president and 33rd governor of New York will be unveiled during the dedication ceremony, which will launch a yearlong celebration of Roosevelt's role in fostering the American conservation movement and his connection to the museum. A new exhibition will chronicle his journey from budding naturalist to national leader committed to conservation. Excerpts from Ken Burns' award-winning film, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," will be on permanent display.

One of the museum's most popular exhibitions of re-created habitats of large and medium-sized species, the Hall of North American Mammals, also underwent major restoration.

Its 43 dioramas depict a moment in time of the parks, forests and species that Roosevelt helped preserve through conservation policies during his presidency.

During the restoration, a master taxidermist worked with a team of conservators to clean and recolor animals' faded fur, replace fake snow that had yellowed and fix tree branches, flowers and other foreground landscape elements.

They "provide an exclamation point and a perfect way of revealing the breadth, reach and beauty of what Roosevelt preserved," museum President Ellen Fuller said.

The three-year, $40 million restoration also included work on the Central Park West façade, on three murals depicting achievements in Roosevelt's life and to divide a display of dinosaurs to allow visitors to walk between them.

On a recent visit, the Roosevelt statue was still wrapped in a packing blanket, only the head exposed.

Futter said when it is unveiled, visitors will see Roosevelt seated on a bench in his outdoors attire - hat, binoculars and all. It is positioned with the long corridor of the Hall of North American Mammals directly behind him and a diorama of two Alaskan brown bears in the distance.

"It's a very genuine presentation of Teddy in a highly approachable, comfortable mode," she said. "He's seated in a way that people will be able to sit right with him and, we hope, will take his exploring spirit and passion for nature and his sense of responsibility and stewardship toward the world with them."

In 1869, the museum's founding charter was signed in the parlor of Roosevelt's boyhood home in Manhattan. Throughout his life, Roosevelt consulted with and received reports from the museum's scientists, and after his presidency went on an expedition with them to the Amazon.

Roosevelt's conservation efforts and connection to the museum cannot be overstated, said Brinkley.

He was the first president to make conservation a central policy of his administration, protecting some 230 million acres in national parks, monuments, forests and wildlife refuges.


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