Royal Danish Library Marks Centenary of Transfer of Danish West Indies

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The year 2017 marks a century since Denmark sold the Danish West Indies to the U.S. of America. The Royal Danish Library focuses on Denmark’s past as a colonial power throughout the year. With an extensive program, including an exhibition, online dissemination, workshops and cultural events, the library offers various points of entry that enable its users to participate in a discussion about Denmark’s colonial history.

The library holds a large collection of books, newspapers, notes, manuscripts, personal archives, maps, photographs and drawings concerning the former Danish West Indies. A comprehensive “digitization” of more than 200,000 pages is underway, and already, maps, images and newspapers are available online. Together, the various material provides important insights into human experience in the colonies as they shed light on personal relations and everyday life on the islands.

“The digitized newspapers are a unique source of information about everyday life on the islands, which can be followed from 1770 onwards. The private photo albums provide a glimpse of the life Danish families lived in the Danish West Indies around 1900,” said senior researcher Mette Kia Krabbe Meyer.

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Some of this rich material can also be seen this spring when the major exhibition, “Blind Spots. Images of the Danish West Indies,” opens Friday, May 19. It deals with the portrayal of the Danish West Indies in images. The exhibition displays historical book prints, maps, lithographs, photographs, postcards, newspapers and films as well as contemporary works by the visual artists La Vaughn Belle, Jeannette Ehlers and Nanna Debois Buhl, all working on the presentation of Denmark’s colonial past. The exhibit will run through Feb. 3, 2018,

Activities

The Black Diamond, Copenhagen. May 19, 2017 – February 3, 2018.

The 800-square-meter exhibition hall, The Black Diamond, will present imagery from the Danish archives. It spans five centuries and includes early woodcuts and engravings, maps and newspapers, photographs and postcards as well as contemporary art by La Vaughn Belle (USVI), Jeannette Ehlers (DK) and Nanna Debois Buhl (DK). Tracing the visual culture established by the circulation of these images, the exhibition lets you explore what stereotypes and visual tropes have been created over time – and what has been left out of sight.

Digitization

Mediastream Newspapers give online access to nine different newspapers from the Danish West Indies. The newspapers cover the period 1770 to 1925 and contain both local and international news. www.kb.dk/da/nb/tema/dvi/

More than 200,000 pages/items from the collections of the Royal Danish Library relating to the former Danish West Indies are accessible online: www.kb.dk/dvi

User-centered activities

Many activities give users access to working with the digitized material to create their own interpretations of history:

Mixoscope

An online tool where people can create their own remix of historic stereo photos from the Danish colony in the West Indies. Users can change perspective, add colors, put different photos together and write comments: Mixoscope.dk 

What Lies Unspoken

Art historian Dr. Temi Odumosu led the workshop of “Living Archives” at which participants discussed images from the exhibition “Blind Spots.” Soundbites from the conversations can be heard in the exhibition and online. The workshop series is a collaboration between the Royal Danish Library, the National Gallery of Denmark and Living Archives. “What Lies Unspoken” is funded by the Nordea Foundation and is part of the national Historier om Danmark project.

Lectures and debates

Journalist Adam Holm hosts Debates and International Authors’ Stage events, which focus on the importance of Denmark’s colonial history on the present, will take place at The Black Diamond (Autumn 2017).

Concert

Newly composed music tells the story of the Danish West Indies as its point of departure will be performed in the autumn of 2017.

Photos can be downloaded at www.kb.dk/pressphoto.

For further information, contact Mette Kia Krabbe Meyer, senior researcher, at mkkm@kb.dk or +45 91 32 48 51.

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