It is now more than a hundred years ago that the Stars and Stripes of America replaced the Danish Dannebrog as the official flag for the Virgin Islands. A hundred years. It is a long time ago. But the preceding years under the Danish flag are not forgotten. Neither in Denmark nor in the Virgin Islands.
We share a common past with the story of slavery and brutality that ruined the lives of the many. There is no justification – what so ever – for the exploitation of men, women and children that took place in these islands under Danish flag. There is no justification for slavery. It is unforgiveable. It is a dark and disgraceful part of Danish history.
The names of Charlotte Amalie, Frederiksted and Christiansted remind us of another part of our common past. And so, does the many houses and buildings, build by skilled local craftsmen, that still bear the marks of Danish presence.
We cannot undo the past. What we can do, is to improve the future. That is the driving motive behind the collaborative project “In Search of Identity”.
No other place outside of Denmark exists such large amounts of Danish building culture. If you would like to see how splendid craftsmen worked in the old days, the towns of Christiansted, Frederiksted, and Charlotte Amalie are a good place to start. In the early 1800s Charlotte Amalie was the second largest city in Denmark. The Danish West Indian cities have urban and street names in common with Danish cities, including Kongensgade, Dronningensgade, and Vimmelskaftsgade.
It is clear that the Danish West Indies have had a tremendous historical and economic importance for Denmark. It is reflected clearly 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.
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 islands urgently need good scholarship and an upgrade of both working with history, craftsmanship and dissemination. Therefore, the future students will function as the maintenance and dissemination team that will manage the two institutions in the long term.
“In Search of Identity” will come into existence in close cooperation with representatives from the Virgin Islands Legislature and dedicated organizations from Denmark. The project could be the start of a closer cooperation between the Virgin Islands and Denmark on culture, education, trade and economy.