Historiens Hus City archives plus reading room in the old monastery
Behind the Cathedral is a paved yard. No one ever goes in there, as it looks like access is reserved to priests and priestly things. But if you do go in and walk in the direction of the blossoming laburnum on the right-hand corner, you get to the History House.
Here you may get shocked by the fact that both a library, a reading hall, an auditorium, and a nice green view over the cloister yard are hiding behind the arched ceilings. All of it is entirely public and open for all.
On the first floor is Odense's best hidden reading room, in the middle of the library, with fourteen seats of pure cloisterly reading peace. The atmosphere is medieval through art nouveau — the building sits on Skt. Knuds Cloister's ground but was home to fabric manufacture during Odense's golden industrial years. Here, on this most sacred ground, stood Odense's first steam engine as early as in 1839!
This may be why the cloister burned down in the beginning of the next century. In 1919 the place was rebuilt to host a multi-culture house with the public reading room. Here the archivists are still ready to help you, or to let you mind your readings and thinkerings under the reading lamps.
Everything in this place tells a very human history. On top of their recurring events in the series 'Husker du...' (a kind of collective reminiscence-lectures about specific places and times, where the participants also can contribute with memories) and 'Torsdagsmik' (morning lectures with coffee and bread rolls), the History House regularly arranges events that draw on the vast knowledge that the Local Historic Archive and the National Archive have what life in Odense was like in the past.
At the History House I learned for instance that Odense between 1983 and 1991 had a women's book café called Basviola. It was located in Grønnegade, it had curvy 80's-style letterings on the windows, and on top of selling books it regularly hosted the meetings of five groups: SF's womens group, Women Advice, Women over 40, the Lesbian Movement, and the Working group for women studies at Odense University (as it was called back then). No men allowed, it goes without saying.
This exciting piece of information turned up into my life during a lecture at the History House about the Redstocking movement in Odense. Here in the audience were a number of the leading figures in the activist movements of that time, who contributed to the discussion with corrective commentaries. Titillating both for my curiosity and for my understanding of how the city is driven by those people that want something and do something about it. And when either those people or the zeitgeist disappear, places disappear too, often without any trace.
What drives the History House is a fusion of written and oral stories. Whenever the city changes its looks — as it is doing right now — it is always fun to remind oneself that it's happened before, and that it is only our city for a short while. Being reminded of all the layers of other people's movements on (and behind and under) every facade makes me even happier, whenever I walk around town.
- Mon - Tue: 12.00 - 16.00
- Wed: 10.00 - 16.00
- Thu: 14.00 - 19.00
- Fri - Sun: -