Danish Children Growing Up American

Written by Sally Sinor, Project Archivist

The Calvin T. Ryan Library at UNK is pleased to host Danish Children Growing Up American January 15 through February 29. Created as a collaboration between The Danish American Archive and Library (DAAL) and University of Nebraska at Omaha, the exhibit features roughly 50 photos showing various stages of a Danish immigrant child’s life at the turn of the 20th century, from infancy to their early teens. All of the photos came from the DAAL’s collections and were selected out of tens of thousands of wonderful photos housed at the Archive.

Several phases of life are depicted. Among other things the exhibit shows immigration, both to and from Denmark, children at play, the clothes and costumes they wore, life on the farm, religious life and education. Several touching photos show the impact death had on the lives of these children, whether it was the death of a sibling or the death of a parent which resulted in their being sent to an orphanage. And the affection the parents had for their children and the children for each other is evident from the many compelling formal photographs they paid to have taken.

Although the photos depict Danish children, their experience is universal among immigrant children of the time, no matter what their nationality. In fact immigrant children today are still experiencing some of the same or even greater challenges that these earlier children faced.

Before traveling to Kearney, the exhibit was displayed at the Criss Library at University of Nebraska at Omaha, Cedar Falls Public Library, the Love Library at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa, and the Denver Public Library.

In conjunction with the exhibit, historical materials have been loaned from Dannebrog’s Columbia Hall and Tom’s Danish Baker to illustrate Danish influence in central Nebraska. Dannebrog was settled in the 1870s by Lars Hannibal, president of the Danish Land and Homestead Company. In 1872, the first post office was established and in 1886 the first railroad track was laid through town. The Nebraska Legislature proclaimed Dannebrog as the Danish Capital of Nebraska in 1989.

The exhibit is free and open to the public during Library hours (Mon – Thurs 7:30AM-Midnight, Fri 7:30AM- 5PM, Sat 10AM – 5PM, Sun 2PM – Midnight). A Fastelavn celebration is scheduled for February 9th.

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