The Danish Immigrant Museum adopted a new name, “Museum of Danish America,” at its annual meeting on October 11.
The national museum for Danish America is located on 30 acres of restored prairie (in the style of 20th century Danish immigrant and landscape architect Jens Jensen) in the heart of the largest rural settlement of Danes. Upon its founding in 1983, the focus of the museum was to tell the story of the Danish immigration around the turn of the 20th century.
“We recognize that the immigrant experience is changing,” Executive Director Dr. John Mark Nielsen explains. “In strategic planning meetings beginning in 2004, board members recognized the decline in immigration from Denmark and the need to expand the museum’s focus to include documenting the evolving relations between our two countries.”
The United States has had a longer, unbroken diplomatic relationship with Denmark than any other country. Danish immigrants, their descendants, and Danish citizens living and working in the U.S. contribute to the evolving narrative. Nielsen said that many supporters of the museum had come to feel that the name, The Danish Immigrant Museum, placed too much emphasis on the immigrant generation – it was not inclusive enough for the future.
Since 2006, the museum has devoted gallery space to exhibiting contemporary Danish and Danish-American artists on a rotating basis. In 2009 it revamped its core exhibition to include stories like the Danish boat lift 70 years ago up to the Danish cartoon controversy of 2005. This year’s featured exhibit, Danish Modern: Design for Living, underscores the expanded vision to include more recent tales of Danish and Danish-American culture.
“Through exhibits, both at the museum and traveling, our website, social media and outreach programming, we are seeking to tell these stories,” said Tova Brandt, the Albert Ravenholt Curator of Danish-American Culture.
At the October 2012 meeting of the Board of Directors, a committee was charged with the responsibility of soliciting, reviewing and proposing possible new names for consideration at its February 2013 meeting in Houston, Texas. The committee considered fifteen different names and recommended “Museum of Danish America.” The board voted to accept the additional name and ratified it at the annual meeting on October 11 in Elk Horn.
“Considering a name change has not been done lightly. We are not just a museum that tells the story of immigrants although this will always be the genesis of our narrative,” Nielsen said. “We are not just a museum focusing on Danish-Americans. We want to embrace those Danes living and working in our country, and we want to include those Americans who, for whatever reason, have become fascinated by Danish culture and its expression in the United States.”