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U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS REVISITED – in the wake of steamers and cruise tourists

From April 7, 2017 until October 29, 2017

What traces did Denmark officially leave behind when the West Indies were sold to the United States in 1917? And how are the islands still affected today by Denmark’s presence on the islands? The M/S Maritime Museum tries to answer these questions in its special new exhibition, ‘U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS REVISITED – in the wake of colliers and cruise tourists,’ which opens April 7th.

What followed in the wake of Denmark’s former ownership of the West Indies? And how have the interests of strangers shaped the islands from 1917 to today? This is one of many aspects the M/S Maritime Museum focuses on in its special exhibition “U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS REVISITED – in the wake of colliers and cruise tourists,” to commemorate the centennial anniversary of selling the West Indies to the United States of America.

The exhibition is supported by

D/S NORDEN // D/S Orients Fond

and Folketinget

From a slave trade harbour to cruise tourism

According to recently collected objects from St. Thomas, interviews with local islanders, new and old films featuring life after 1917, and until now unexposed material from Danish and West Indian archives and collections, the exhibition discusses the importance of the harbor in connection to Denmark’s sale of the islands in 1917, and how Danish interests – contrary to what most believe – are not withdrawn from it’s former colonies, but rather through the East Asiatic Company (EAC) and the Danish West India Company, have played a key role in the area’s development for half a century after the islands became American territory.

A small place of great importance

The exhibition zooms in on a small maritime place of great global importance: The harbor of Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas island. A port that today serves as a wharf for cruise ships to make port for a quick visit. Meanwhile in the past, the Danish colony received thousands of enslaved Africans, to be the basis for an active coal-mining industry for overseas steamships.

Virgin Territory

At the same time, through dialogue with local people, the exhibition demonstrates how the small community has always been shaped by foreign powers’ economic and strategic interests, such as slavery, sugar and rum, ship trafficking, international power politics, duty free luxury goods and tourism. Welcome to virgin territory – used and shaped by a shifting flow of goods, people, capital, projects and dreams.

New Works

The exhibition at M/S Maritime Museum is a collaborative project with anthropologist, Nathalia Brichet, and artist, Camilla Nørgård, who participated in research and data collection on St. Thomas in December 2016 and January 2017. Camilla Nørgård is responsible for the exhibition’s creative expression and contributes to the exhibition with new works, created from imagery and objects from St. Thomas.

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