The Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, Iowa, is changing with the times.
The 30-year-old institution is now known as the Museum of Danish America.
Board members approved the name in recognition of declining immigration from Denmark and the need to expand the museum's focus, said John Mark Nielsen, executive director.
“We recognize that the immigrant experience is changing,” he said.
Nielsen said many supporters of the museum had come to feel that the old name placed too much emphasis on the immigrant generation and was not inclusive enough for the future.
The museum devotes gallery space to exhibiting contemporary Danish and Danish-American artists on a rotating basis. It has revamped its core exhibition to include stories such as the boat lift of Danish Jews during World War II and the controversy over a Danish newspaper's 2005 cartoon of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. This year's featured exhibit on Danish Modern furniture and household design underscores the expanded vision to include more recent tales of Danish culture, said curator Tova Brandt.
Nielsen said the name change was not done lightly.
“We are not just a museum that tells the story of immigrants, although this will always be the genesis of our narrative,” he said. “We are not just a museum focusing on Danish-Americans. We want to embrace those Danes living and working in our country, and we want to include those Americans who, for whatever reason, have become fascinated by Danish culture and its expression in the United States.”
The new name was ratified at a recent board meeting in Elk Horn, where the museum is situated on 30 acres of restored prairie in the heart of the nation's largest rural settlement of Danes.
The board, led by Dagmar Muthamia of Long Beach, Calif., also welcomed six new members. They are Daniel Christensen of West Des Moines, Iowa; Bente Ellis of San Jose, Calif.; Bill Jensen of Urbandale, Iowa; Carolyn Larson of St. Paul, Minn.; Craig Molgaard of Missoula, Mont.; and Brent Norlem of Monticello, Minn.