Jacob A. Riis (1849-1914)

At the age of 21, Jacob left for America in 1870. He initially left behind the love of his life, but through hard work and an endless stubbornness, he broke barriers and created a life for himself that no one had dreamed of. His life and work had enormous significance for America’s poorest.

The movie

The entire story of Jacob A. Riis is collected in a film that lasts approx. 20 minutes. It is shown downstairs every hour on the hour and every half hour with the first showing at 10.30 am.

How the other half lives

The lower floor focuses on the extroverted social reformer who, through his photos, put a spotlight on the most vulnerable in New York’s slums.

It is the story of the journalist, photographer, author and lecturer, who through his tireless work opened the eyes of the bourgeoisie to the terrible conditions of immigrants at the bottom of society.

If you are not familiar with Jacob A. Riis beforehand, a small multimedia show, which takes place on the dark walls in the first room of the exhibition, provides a quick introduction to the core of the story.

Jacob A. Riis sent so-called “stereoscopies” of his pictures home to Ribe. Experience them in exact replicas of stereoscopes which give a very special depth effect

Discover over 100 of Jacob A. Riis’s photos in the exhibition’s photo archive.

Before you go upstairs, you should cross the yard and go with Jacob into the slum: Here you can take a picture of yourself and send it home as a newspaper cover.

The Making of an American

The exhibition on the 1st floor tells about the personal life of Jacob A. Riis. This is where you can get the story of his deep, romantic love for Elisabeth from Ribe’s upper class, whom he ended up getting in the end against all odds.

This is also where his childhood in Ribe and incredibly harsh life in the first years in the USA are described. Hear how he eventually finds his footing and ends up as both a friend of the Danish royal family and of the American President Roosevelt.

You can browse digitally in Jacob's diaries

The story of the dog that saved Jacob A. Riis from suicide can be seen as a cartoon

The last room of the exhibition contains plenty of examples of how the fame of Jacob A. Riis was and still is

The photographer and the children

Jacob A. Riis photographed many of the slum’s children and their pictures have been given their own room on the 1st floor.