Monumenter i købstaden 1864 - 1920

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About the project

In the autumn of 2003 the Danish Centre for Urban History decided to make a research project about the monuments of Danish market towns from the War of 1864 between Denmark and Prussia-Austria, the First World War 1914 – 1918 and the re-unification of Northern Schleswig (now Southern Jutland) with Denmark in 1920.

We chose to investigate those particular events because they are connected historically. In the War of 1864 Denmark lost Schleswig and Holstein to Prussia and Austria. The defeat of Germany in the First World War made it possible for Denmark to get Northern Schleswig back in 1920 through plebiscites.

Due to limited funding we decided to limit the extend of the investigation to cover only freestanding monuments in the open air.

From the beginning it was the intention that the project should result in two products: one being a monuments database freely available to everybody through the web site of the Danish Centre for Urban history and the other being to produce one or more research articles about the building of monuments in Danish market towns commemorating the events mentioned above.

The method we chose to use when conducting the investigation was as follows:

1st phase of the investigation: Existing databases and literature

We searched the Danish board for the Cultural Heritage monuments record at and the 5th edition of the Denmark series of books by J. C. Trap published in the 1950s and 1960s and which contains a short description of each market town (and all other urban and rural communities) often including a mention of freestanding monuments. Further more we searched all national and local books about monuments. The national ones were Genforeningsmindesmærkernes Historie (= the memorials of the Re-unification) (1939) by Johannes Vejlager and Mindesmærker og krigergrave i Sønderjylland (=Memorials and warriors graves in Southern Jutland) (1940) by Hector Boeck. Among books about the monuments of a specific town should be mentioned only a couple of the best ones. Århus i friluftskunst og mindesmærker (=Århus in open air art and memorials) (1983) by Poul Harris and Skulptur i det fri i Randers (=Open air sculpture in Randers) (1982) by Peter Bondesen.

2nd phase of the investigation: Questionnaires for local record offices

After the end of the first phase we knew quite a few of the monuments in existence in Danish market towns commemorating the events we were investigating and we knew quite a bit about them. However, in order to make sure to get to know about all the monuments in existence in the market towns commemorating the relevant events and in order to make sure we knew where they were today we wrote to the lokalarkiver (= local record offices) of each market town. One or two historians and a number of volunteers with no formal historical training but with an intens interest in the history of their local town often staff local record offices in Danish market towns. Often their degree of knowledge about the local community and its history surpasses that of formally trained professionals. We sent each local record office one questionnaire for each monument we had recorded from their town and we asked them if there were others, and if the location we had recorded was accurate. In cases when we did not already know when the monument was unveiled we also asked if they knew when this had taken place. Further more we asked if the local record office was in possession of photographs of the monuments preferably new colour ones showing what it looks like today partly in order to make it possible for people to find them in the urban landscape and partly in order to present the database in a way to the public on the Internet so as to make them interested in the monuments and their history.

The reason why we asked the local record offices instead of say the local museums was that the geographical area covered by a local record office is usually smaller than that of a local museum and for this reason they often know their local area better. If the local record office of a specific market town did not know the answers to our questions they would often pass it on to the local museum or a local society or association with an interest in particular monuments.

3rd phase of the investigation: Comparing and processing results

We went through the large material we received from the local record offices. Generally speaking, the quality of the material was very good. We had also asked the local record offices to mention any relevant books we did not already know about and we were made aware of a number of relevant ones. We compared it to what we had found out from the literature and existing databases and put the results into the computer. In some cases we would ask the local record offices for additional information to make sure our information was accurate.

Conclusion about the usefulness of the method used

The method outlined above produced very good results. Through the questionnaires we found out about several monuments not mentioned in the literature or in existing databases. We also received photographs – almost all in colour – of all more than one hundred monuments apart from 6, which we went out and photographed ourselves.

The decision to ask the local record offices for assistance was clearly a good one. In the cases when local record offices sent our request for information to the local museum it provided valuable assistance. In a number of cases non of these historical institutions knew anything about their local monuments and in those cases we asked the staff of non-historical institutions, associations or even knowledgeable individuals like cemetery staff, local administration officials. In such cases these people provided highly valuable assistance.

In conclusion the method of combining a search for information in literature and existing databases with sending out questionnaires is highly recommendable when researching monuments. Doing only one and not the other would have provided insufficient results.