Mission of the Project

To enable visitors to explore the life and legacy of Jacob A. Riis, the most influential Danish – American in history.

To engage visitors in the themes of immigration, nationality and identity; poverty, education and social reform in the contexts of 19th century New York compared with modern times.

To celebrate the emergence of documentary photography journalism.

About the Project

‘How the Other Half Lives – Jacob A. Riis Museum’ is a new, permanent, museum that will be built in the original home where Jacob A. Riis grew up in Ribe, Denmark.

The original brick, two-story house is part of a block of Renaissance and 19th century buildings called Quedens Gaard that belongs to Museum of Southwest Jutland.  The whole block is being extensively redeveloped into a collection of connected yet stand-alone museums, exhibition spaces, education facilities, gardens, a cafe and retail stores.

The project is a core element of Museum of Southwest Jutland’s ‘Vision 2020′, an eight-year plan enacted in 2012, to further develop cultural and historical resources in the area.

In his childhood home will be created an internationally oriented museum, which on the one hand will show the importance of Jacob A. Riis’ work, while on the other hand will explore the themes that he was involved with: poverty, immigration, housing, integration, education, social reform, photography, journalism and new media. These are themes which, well over a century after his death, are just as relevant today.

Furthermore, with basis in one of Riis’ other famous books, The Making of An American, the museum will highlight the topics of identity and nationality, using Riis’ own transformative journey as a young Danish emigrant who eventually became a true American in his heart.

‘At the museum we want to focus on Jacob A. Riis’ influence on society and on other social reformers, who took part in changing the social conditions for the exposed immigrants in the melting pot of New York at the end of the 19th century. At the same time, we want to tell the story of Jacob A. Riis’ astonishing life – the story of the contrast between the provincial life in Ribe to the hectic metropolitan life in New York City.

The goal is to create ‘a reason to go’ – a place with focus on the influence of documentary photography with basis in Jacob A. Riis’ life and work. We want to create a place that offers thoughts of perspective and sympathetic insights.’

Flemming Just, Director of Museums of Southwest Jutland

The museum will retell the stories through original texts and photographs. An engaging visual, audio and physical experience will be created through the use of the latest multi-media technologies including augmented reality, sounds, recordings, touch-screens and even a holographic, moving and speaking Jacob A. Riis.

We invite you to read the prospectus for further detail of the project including a room by room step through.


The budget of the Jacob A. Riis Museum is approximately DKK13 million (USD1.9 million), while the total project budget of Quedens Gaard is approximately DKK100 million (USD15 million).

All of the funds raised through the American Friends Fund of the Jacob A. Riis Museum will be used towards costs associated with the creation of How the Other Half Lives – Jacob A. Riis Museum only. A Danish foundation, the Augustinus Fund, has donated more than USD1 million for a much needed renovation of the old building. The remaining funding needs, USD 0.9 million, is hereby being sought in the United States, where he gained an everlasting reputation and became one of the most respected persons of his time. The donations will be used for development of museum exhibits, state-of-the-art new exhibition technology, educational material, films etc. The ongoing running costs of the museum will be covered by its income sources such as tickets and merchandise sales.

If required, please feel free to contact us for a more detailed budget of the project.