Museum of Danish America

Location: Elk Horn, Iowa

Webpage: Museum

General Description: The Museum of Danish America opened in 1994, “housing significant artifacts important to the interpretation of the Danish immigration story.”  The artifact collection currently includes over 35,000 items that are diverse and wide ranging.  These include family heirlooms brought from Denmark, tools of early immigrants, and memorabilia from Danish-American clubs and organizations.  The museum grounds have been transformed into “the Jens Jensen Prairie Landscape Park — named for the colleague of Frank Lloyd Wright and the father of the Prairie School of Landscape Architecture.”  The Friends Walk Trail winds through the area with interpretive signs about Jensen and the design of the park.  Within the museum are exhibits that highlight stories of Danish immigrants, the history of Denmark, and a small part of the artifact collection.  On the upper floor is also a new exhibit about the New Nordic Cuisine that has become very popular in the US.

Museum

Impressions:

1) The museum and surrounding grounds are beautiful with the backdrop of the Iowa farm fields.  On the ground floor of the museum are many stories highlighting the varying reasons to immigrate to the US over the years.  It is interesting to see how these reasons change from generation to generation.  The second floor is dedicated to the New Nordic Cuisine that compares traditional Danish food with the new cuisine that has become very popular.  However, the basement is the best part of the museum.  Along the wall is a quick history lesson of Denmark and Danish immigration to the US.  In the center of the very large room is a glass walled section of shelves upon shelves of artifacts.  While they are organized by use category, there is very little information about what you are looking at.  Still it is an amazing display of old artifacts.

2) The grounds outside the museum are also beautifully landscaped with artificial features interwoven with natural prairie to create a stunning landscape.  The interpretive signs do a good job of pointing out the important features.  The 1 mile walk along the Friends Walk Trail into the town of Elk Horn is well worth the effort.

Landscaping

3) Although we did not take advantage of it, the admission price also includes a tour of Bedstemor’s House in Elk Horn which is a traditional Danish home.  It was built in 1908 by Jens Otto Christiansen and serves to highlight the lifestyle of early 20th Century Danish Americans.  It is located at the other end of the Friends Walk Trail.

GrandmaHouse