A Social History of Danish Archaeology (Reprint with New Epilogue)

  • Kristian KristiansenEmail author


Thirty years ago when I wrote “A social history of Danish Archaeology,” I concluded optimistically that archaeology was moving away from national history toward world history, linked to the expansion of a global economy. My own contribution was “Europe before History” from 1998. I also observed that professional archaeologists had taken the place of former historical activists and amateurs in managing museums and archaeological societies, and that the secondary audience for archaeology, the passively interested middle-class, was expanding and consuming history more than ever. A few years later, I analyzed the role of archaeological popularisation, nationalism and politics, concluding that nationalism was still the dominant framework. However, I saw the EU as a way out of nationalism. New expanding arenas for archaeological/historical consumption were the many new reconstructed archaeological environments and historical enactments that activated an interested middle-class in new, exciting ways. Activism had returned in new shapes. Consequently, I predicted a decline of traditional museums at the expense of such new “realistic” historical environments that reenacted both history and prehistory, and I saw, along with many other colleagues, cultural tourism linked to the presentation of real archaeological and historical monuments as the driving economic force in archaeological heritage. Finally, I recently concluded in a somewhat defeatist mode that the national framework for archaeology in Europe dominated research and the perception of the past more than ever.


National Museum Archaeological Research Private Collection Industrial Capitalist Cultural Tourism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



During my research, the archives and the library of Department One of the National Museum in Copenhagen have been sources of information to which I constantly returned, and my thanks go to all the staff for their hospitality and friendliness throughout the years. In preparing this paper the ‘Private Collections’ section of the archive was put at my disposal, as well as the records of earlier meetings of the Royal Commission for the Preservation of Northern Antiquities from 1807 to 1834 stored in Department Two. I was allowed to consult member lists of the Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries, which have been published regularly since its inception in 1825. I am specially indebted to Bifgitte Kjær of the Old Town Museum in Aarhus, who permitted me to read her Ph. D thesis ‘The Foundation of the first provincial Museums in Denmark in the Middle of the 19th Century from which I benefited greatly Kjær 1974. My thanks also go to Holger Rasmussen of Department Three of the National Museum, for giving me access before publication to his manuscript about history of Danish museums (Rasmussen 1979), and the same applies to Sven Thorsen, of the Administration of Ancient Monuments and Sites Thorsen 1979, and Jorgen Street-Jensen of the university library in Aarhus (Street-Jensen 1979). Finally, it gives me special pleasure to express my gratitude to Ole Klindt-Jensen posthumously alas and Peder Mortensen, both of the University of Aarhus, who always aided my research in every possible way officially and personally, since my early student years.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Historical StudiesUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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