After three years and an extensive $40 million renovation, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial at the American Museum of Natural History will reopen to the public with a day of celebration today, October 27, 2012. The Hall of North American Mammals will reopen as the Jill and Lewis Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, with stunningly restored dioramas depicting wilderness areas and wildlife that Roosevelt's policies have helped to preserve.
In 1924, the New York State Legislature decided to honor Theodore Roosevelt with a memorial, placing it at the American Museum of Natural History in light of Roosevelt's close association with the institution and his passion for science. The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, which was completed in 1936, remains a tribute to the enduring legacy of a man often referred to as the Conservation President for his unprecedented efforts in setting aside five national parks, four game preserves, 51 bird refuges, and 18 national monuments, in addition to creating or expanding 150 national forests. Altogether, Roosevelt placed some 230 million acres under federal protection.
Rightly called the "biologist-in-chief," Roosevelt was a lifelong naturalist and native New Yorker. His father helped found the Museum, to which his son first contributed specimens at the age of 13. The two-story Memorial-which includes the Museum's iconic Central Park West façade, the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall on the first floor-was dedicated in 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and serves as New York State's official memorial to its 33rd governor and the nation's 26th president. Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates served as the lead architect for the Memorial's restoration.
On the Memorial's lower level, the re-envisioned Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall anchors what has effectively become the Museum's conservation wing, with galleries that include the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, the Hall of Biodiversity, the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, and the Hall of North American Forests. The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall features a new exhibition that traces Roosevelt's life from budding naturalist to academically trained scientist and President who recognized the intrinsic connection between the great natural resources of this country and the democracy over which he presided. At its center, a new sculpture perfectly captures Theodore Roosevelt the naturalist and policymaker who believed that "we are not building this country of ours for a day. It is to last through the ages."
The public reopening today, October 27, the 154th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt's birth, marks the start of a yearlong celebration of TR's foundational role in the American conservation movement with a slate of special programs to connect his conservation efforts to today's conservation science and to inspire the naturalist in all of us.
"The restored Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and Hall of North American Mammals are essential destinations for all who are passionate about preserving wildlife and wild lands and celebrating America's Conservation President," said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. "Since the Museum's founding, our scientists have been instrumental in advancing conservation efforts on this continent and around the world, and we are proud to honor Theodore Roosevelt and his visionary leadership for the conservation movement in America."
"The leadership of Governor and President Theodore Roosevelt in conserving America's natural resources continues to benefit New Yorkers today, allowing us and our children to enjoy our country for generations to come," said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. "The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial at the American Museum of Natural History has always been an iconic and popular destination for history buffs and visitors, and the completion of its restoration is great news as the State works to promote our rich history and tourism in New York. I encourage all to visit the memorial to celebrate and learn about the life and work of President Theodore Roosevelt."
"The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial is a fitting tribute to a great New Yorker and a great naturalist," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "Along with the Jill and Lewis Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, this memorial will allow Museum visitors to learn more about our natural world and the importance of conservation and sustainability."
"Public investment in our City's great institutions is crucial to the cultural and educational life of New Yorkers, but it is also essential to our economic well being," said Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council. "Every year, millions of tourists visit our City to enjoy our world-class museums and cultural institutions, including, of course, the American Museum of Natural History. The Museum's Central Park West restoration will offer one more reason."