Church Basements and Children's Homes

This exhibit is no longer on display.

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Church-based missions can take many forms: schools, hospitals, orphanages, retirement homes, and – of course – new churches. In the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, before state governments provided comprehensive social services, churches often filled the need to care for vulnerable children and adults. But the churches did not limit themselves to caring for their neighbors; many churches looked beyond their own communities to more distant places. From Iowa to Oklahoma, and from Nigeria to Japan, Danish-American churches were involved in missions that created global connections – connections that reached all the way back to the churches and church basements in which congregations organized their mission support.

For many Danish-American churches, missions offered a window into distant places and different cultures. While on furlough back "at home," many missionaries would visit congregations to describe the history and culture of the people they served. Sunday School lessons, Women's Missionary Society meetings, and other organized events could include a description of a particular mission as well as an introduction to the geography, food, and cultural traditions of far-away places. 

This exhibition was supported by a grant from Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A traveling version is also available.

This exhibit was on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from April 16 through October 31, 2011.


On view:

January - February 2016 at the Nordia House in Portland, OR.