About the project

Flensburg Culture Transfer Project

COLONIAL LEGACY SØNDERJYLLAND-SCHLESWIG A joint project of the Flensburg Maritime Museum, Museum Sønderjylland – Cultural History Aabenraa and the Collection Schleswig of the Danish Central Library Flensburg

INTRODUCTION After four years of preparation, the Flensburg Maritime Museum, the Museum Sønderjylland – Cultural History Aabenraa and Collection Schleswig of the Danish Central Library Flensburg has launched a joint project to research and reflect the colonial heritage of Flensburg and the region of Sønderjylland-Schleswig. The occasion is the centennial commemoration of “Transfer Day”, the sale of the Danish West Indies, together with the people living there, to the United States of America in 1917. Thus, today‘s US Virgin Islands celebrate their 100th anniversary. The Flensburg Maritime Museum, the Museum Sønderjylland – Cultural History Aabenraa and Collection Schleswig of the Danish Central Library Flensburg utilises the occasion of the commemorative year in order to draw attention to the many colonial references in history and present of the Region Sønderjylland-Schleswig. The aim is to open to the general public a new perspective on a reflected, responsible and forward-looking understanding of the own colonial heritage and to increase the interest and exchange and with West Africa and the US Virgin Islands. The fact that one region can refer to the colonial history of two nations is unique in this form. Nevertheless, this important part of the shared transatlantic history is still barely in the contemporary collective memory of the people in the region. The significance of the project is reflected in the funding of the exhibition “Cultural Transfer: Our common colonial heritage” by the International Museum Fellowship Programme of the German Federal Cultural Foundation – one of the largest of the public sector funded cultural foundations of Europe. The generous grant allows the Flensburg Maritime Museum to employ the renowned Jamaican cultural anthropologist Dr. Imani Tafari-Ama for 18 months as curator in the project to both the preparatory research and in the later exhibition in order to implement a decidedly African-Caribbean perspective to the common colonial heritage. The results of the project will be presented in 2017. Beside the major exhibition “Culture Transfer” there will be a mapping of 20 places of colonial remembrance in the region accompanied by a website and a traveling exhibition, a media kit for schools, a diverse cultural programme and a comprehensive anthology on the colonial history of Sønderjylland-Schleswig.


In Flensburg and the surrounding areas, you find many traces of colonial history. Flensburg has grown rich through the sugar- and rum-trade with the Danish colonies in the West Indies in the 18th and 19th centuries. The brickworks along the Flensburg Fjord mass-produced building materials for the islands. Also in the port town of Aabenraa the development of seafaring was closely linked to the opportunities offered by the global colonialism. The trade with the Caribbean, Africa and Asia have been the economic engine of the region. Sailors, captains, merchants, shipbuilders, craftsmen and farmers, but also manufacturers, businessmen or soldiers who took part as to the German colonial wars, they are all actors and beneficiaries in the transatlantic relations. The economic and social effects of this heyday have already been investigated in many parts. But still there is a “colonial amnesia” that leaves space for mythification and nostalgia that is for example reflected in the still popular self-depiction of the city of Flensburg as “Rum City”. Until now the critical reflection of colonial legacy is not anchored in the collective consciousness of the people in the region. An important objective of the project is now to develop a new perspective on the regional legacy of the Danish and German colonialism, to name it in part for the first time as such, taking into account not least the effects of recent research approaches of postcolonial studies. Current colonial history and postcolonial studies examine colonialism no longer solely with regard to the effects on the formerly colonized peoples. They are also investigating the impact on the nations, societies and cultures of the former “mother countries” in Europe. The colonial landscapes were always complex and facilitated – despite the clearly defined hegemonic relationship between colonizers and colonized, oppressors and enslaved – also cultural processes of exchange that are still visible today – exchanges of goods, knowledge, attitudes, consumer habits and worldviews. These rudiments and continuities of these early capitalist globalized transatlantic relations cannot only be found internationally in the triangle between Europe, Africa and America and the ruling metropolitan cities like London, Nantes or Hamburg, but also in the peripheries of the colonial states – even in the territory between Eider and Königsau. The project partners take the unique opportunity of the commemorative year 2017 to engage the general public with this hitherto largely ignored issue of a joint African-Caribbean-European history in the German-Danish border region. To this end, the project partners implement various project components:


Exhibition “Cultural Transfer: Our common colonial legacy”

Flensburg Maritime Museum, from May 2017 to March 2018. The exhibition is curated by the cultural anthropologist Dr. Imani Tafari-Ama of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. Funded by  the International Museum Fellowship Programme of the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

Publication “The Colonial Legacy of Sønderjylland-Schleswig”

Anthology with around 20 contributions on the colonial history of the region published by the Schleswig Collection of the Danish Central Library Flensburg, the Museum Sønderjylland – Cultural History Aabenraa and Flensburg Maritime Museum. Among others, contributions by Erik Gobel (Rigsarkivet København), Detlev Kraack (TU Berlin) and Lars Jensen (Roskilde Universitet).

Places of Colonial Remembrance with accompanying website and travelling exhibition

Mapping of 20 selected places that tell of the colonial legacy of the region. The results will be presented on a website and in a travelling exhibition.

Media Kit for Schools

In order to carry the themes “colonialism” and “globalization” in the schools, the Flensburg Maritime Museum and the Museum Sønderjylland – Cultural History Aabenraa develop a media kit which holds German and Danish-language materials for pupils from level 7. Programme brochure “1917 | 2017” An overarching program brochure summarizes the various events and activities that will take place in the commemorative year 2017 in the region.

The overall project “Colonial Legacy” is co-funded by KursKultur with the support of partners of the Region Sønderjylland-Schleswig, the Danish Cultural Ministry and the Ministry of Justice, Culture and European Affairs of Schleswig-Holstein. This project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.