University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


End of an era for university’s arctic enclave

Knock-on effect of political restructuring forces Eskimology and Arctic Studies to relocate

The University of Copenhagen’s Eskimology and Arctic Studies faces relocation after 16 years in Christianshavn’s North Atlantic enclave, Grønlands Handels Plads (Greenland Trade Square).

The department is now forced to move away from the square, which also houses the culture centre North Atlantic House, the Faroese Representation, the Greenland representation and the Icelandic Embassy. The government agency Danish Polar Centre was recently closed.

Given notice to leave

Eskimology and Arctic Studies has since 1993 rented the top level of a renovated warehouse with a view over the harbour Nyhavn, sharing these picturesque lodgings with the Danish Polar Centre, which was responsible for the running of the office building.

Now, as half of the building stands empty, and no new tenants have been found, the Department has been given notice to leave in the spring of 2010.

Cosy and close knit

Eskimology, with its around 50 students, will move into university buildings on Snorresgade in the Islands Brygge-district, which houses other small language and culture disciplines under the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies.

»Cosy« and »close-knit« is the word used by eskimology students and teachers alike when describing the study environment and tone between students and employees in their present location.

Staff and students are concerned that this family feel might get lost in the move.

Not all doom and gloom

»We do know each other and we like the atmosphere here, but of course we hope we will be able to uphold the way we usually do things. It will be something we have to get used to, to be part of the daily life at Islands Brygge,« says Søren Thuesen, Associate Professor.

»There are some good things about it too, we do become part of a larger student environment,« he adds.

Eskimology student Kristian Bjørn Hansen agrees that the move is not all doom and gloom.

»The positive consequence would be a bigger group of students gathered. The students of Eskimology might find inspiration from students of other areas. What is relevant in the Arctic is also relevant to other places in the world,« he says.

Library dispersed

The loss of community feeling is not the only downside to the enforced relocation. The building also houses the Polar Library, an impressive collection of books about Greenland and the Arctic.

This library will now be dispersed as there are three separate owners of the collection; the university, the privately owned Arctic Institute, and the Danish Polar Center, which is part of The Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation.

See the article End of the road for internationally renowned polar library.

No fears for the future of Eskimology

When asked about his thoughts on whether the move could affect the future of Eskimology, Søren Thuesen is confident. Even in the wake of increased self-determination in Greenland, there is still, he says, a future for the discipline of Eskimology in Denmark.

»As a result of our common history, we are here to stay, and because we are the only full university programme globally that teaches Greenlandic as a foreign language. We have Greenlanders, students from other countries and Danes who come here so I am very sure of a lasting interest in Arctic studies,« he explains.