A Collaborative Project Between Denmark and the USVI
Excerpts from IN SEARCH OF IDENTITY.
2017 is the Centennial of the observance of Denmark’s sale and transfer of the former Danish West Indian Islands to the United States.
Based on the enslaved Africans’ contributions and labor, great fortunes were made on sugar and trade in the period of almost 250 years under Danish colonial administration. Towns and buildings in Danish architectural style were erected, which to this date still bear witness to how splendid craftsmen could build in the old days. Denmark’s Centennial gift should be the beginning of a partnership that holds our common destiny history and focus on the future.
Former Danish buildings frame the project
With the Schools of Architecture in Copenhagen and Aarhus in the lead, the project petitions for funding to implement two projects. Within an estimated budget of $20 million, the proposal petitions for $10 million US dollars in Denmark from both government and private funds. A corresponding amount must be raised in the Virgin Islands of the United States.
The funds in part establish an academy of craftsmanship, architecture and cultural heritage on St. Croix and the islands’ first National museum on St. Thomas. Both facilities should be designed in former Danish buildings, which will be renovated – the Danish barracks in Christiansted and the Danish military hospital in Charlotte Amalie. The future operation of the school and the museum must be handled and financed by the Virgin Islands of the United States.
A strong future of cooperation
“In Search of Identity” will come into existence in close cooperation with representatives from the Virgin Islands Legislature and Denmark. The project could be the start of a closer cooperation between the Virgin Islands and Denmark on culture, education, trade and economy.
Education, history and pride
This project’s idea is that the restoration of two significant buildings from the Danish era will create the framework for future training of craftsmen and on that basis, foundation for a National museum. The future students will function as the maintenance and dissemination team that will manage the two institutions in the long term.
Exchange will create international cooperation
In February, 2016, the Schools of Architecture in Copenhagen and Aarhus will send two classes of students to St. Thomas and St. Croix to prepare the projects with measurements that will be the foundation for further work on the buildings.
An academy of craftsmanship will be started in Christiansted on St. Croix, with the old Christiansted barracks creating the framework for the architecture, conservation and heritage dissemination, including a vocational school for the training of craftsmen, so future generations can then have the knowledge to take care of the buildings.
A National museum will be started in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas at the former J. Antonio Jarvis Elementary School, which was once the site of a historic Danish military hospital. The building will be restored and used as a learning center and an integral museum in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The new museum will house collections from the Native American period to Columbus, colonial history under Danish administration, and the recent history and culture of the Virgin Islands of the United States.
No other place outside of Denmark exists such large amounts of Danish building culture.
We share destiny
The Danish West Indies have had a tremendous historical and economic importance for Denmark. It is reflected in the many 1700s mansions in Copenhagen, which are the concrete, historical expression of the great fortunes that were earned on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John in the nearly 250 years during which they were Danish islands. There are still many West Indians with the names Petersen, Larsen, Jensen and Hansen – descendants of the plantation owners, soldiers, officers, officials and craftsmen who traveled from Denmark to control the colony. With this project, we seek to communicate this story for an international audience and for ourselves.
Still strong roots in Denmark
An increasing number of Danish tourists visit the islands – up to 25,000 guests annually. This will be a great opportunity to tell the story of our common Danish West Indian history and cultural heritage and strengthen Danish-West Indian-American relations.
This project is coordinated by the Schools of Architecture in Aarhus and Copenhagen, the Association of Owners of Historic Houses in Denmark (BYFO) in collaboration with a number of strong partners.