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Theme: Cosmopolitan Copenhagen

“When the young girl with us two black children showed herself at Rådhuspladsen, people huddled around us ... several tried to rub the back colour of us with their thumb, while others shook our tufts of hair to find out if was a wig or, in fact, real hair.” Victor Cornelins, 1972, about the walk from their lodging in Vestergade to the Colonial Exhibition in Tivoli in 1905.

Worldwide in Copenhagen

Copenhagen’s architecture, cultural life and supply of goods are a blend of inspiration from other parts of the world. In and around the city, you can still find traces of the colonial period when Copenhagen was the metropolis of a vast kingdom.

In the exhibition theme you can here more about people from the West Indies who have arrived as students, slaves, servants, workers and actors. While from the neighbouring western countries the city has found inspiration for the development and representation of Copenhagen as a metropolis. People from the Far East have been exhibited in the name of both education and entertainment, while blubber from whaling in the North has provided light for the city’s streets. The South leaves its mark on the African street life of Nørrebro and as prehistoric finds left by the first inhabitants of the area, immigrants from the South.

Highlights from “Cosmopolitan Copenhagen”

Stories from the exhibition theme:


Alberta i skole.

Alberta at Vajsenhus School, 1908

In 1905, the children Alberta and Victor came from the Danish West Indies to Copenhagen. Shortly after their arrival, the children were settled in the West Indies section of the large colonial exhibition in Tivoli, from where they were subsequently sent to the Royal Vajsenhus Children’s Home on Nørre Farimagsgade. None of the children were to return to the West Indies, which were sold to USA in 1917.                               

In the exhibition you can learn more about Alberta and Victor.

Julius in Tivoli, 1902. Photo: Julius Aagaard.

“Julius” at the chinese exhibition in Tivoli 1902

When the exhibition ended approximately half of the 34 Chinese settled in Copenhagen, the majority on Studiestræde: according to Politiken newspaper at least, writing that a Mr. Ogonsohm and his wife had acquired a flat on the street. ‘On the same street reside many of the others, creating in effect our very first Chinese colony.’ The Chinese were employed in entertainment venues, circuses and tea rooms.


Warehouses at Grønlandske Handels Plads (Greenland Trade Square) in Christianshavn.

Jaw bones from bowhead whales gave lights in the city

Whale oil from jaw bones from bowhead whales, was used for lighting the Copenhagen streets until the mid-19th century. The processing of whale oil for was carried out in warehouses at Grønlandske Handels Plads (Greenland Trade Square) in Christianshavn. Some of the whales that were used to fuel Copenhagen’s street lights were found in the waters off the coast of Greenland.



Other exhibition themes




Urban Communities


Read more about the Museum of Copenhagen’s previous special exhibitions.