A Society, a Museum, and an Archive: A Historical Update on Emerging Danish American Institutions


historical preservation, immigrants, immigrant history


In 1992, John Mark Nielsen and I published an article entitled "Collecting and Preserving the Danish-American Immigrant Story: An Overview of Current Research and Preservation Efforts." In it, we used as our introduction the observation at the 1973 Scanpresence Conference of my friend and fellow presenter, John R. Christianson, that when compared to the historical preservation efforts of other Scandinavian groups, something seemed to have gone wrong in the Danish America. Writing nearly twenty years after Christianson made his remarks, we were able to point to significant and positive developments in the Danish American community, particularly the establishment in 1977 of The Danish American Heritage Society, the incorporation of The Danish Immigrant Museum in 1983, and increased archival activity at Dana and Grand View, the two liberal arts colleges which emerged from educational institutions founded by Danish immigrants.1 Now another ten years have passed and although in the larger scheme of history a decade is often little more than a blink of an eye, there continues to be important developments within the Danish-American community, especially involving the organizations and institutions just mentioned. The purpose of this paper is to offer a brief review of the history and development of The Danish American Heritage Society, the Danish Immigrant Museum, and the two Danish Immigrant Archives before 1992, and to report what has happened since then.

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