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The Danish Welfare Museum - Svendborg Museum

Step behind the walls of Northern Europe's best-preserved Poorhouse.

In the center of Svendborg lies the Poorhouse, which was in operation from 1872 to 1974. In the unique buildings, you can experience an important part of Denmark's welfare history. The doors are open to an otherwise closed world, where stories are told about the many people who lived or live on the shadow side of society: the poor, the sick, the homeless, the "misfits," and the orphans. Step behind the walls and see where the residents slept, ate, worked, were washed, and were punished.

The Poorhouse was in operation from 1872 to 1974.

The Poorhouse opened in 1872, and it was with great pride that the city could open such a modern and forward-thinking institution for those who could not take care of themselves or were thought to be in need of rehabilitation. When passing through the gate of the Poorhouse, one was "admitted." Civil rights were lost: the right to vote, property rights, guardianship over one's children, and the right to marry. It was assessed whether one was "worthy or unworthy in need." The worthy ones were to live in the Support Institution, where, for example, they were allowed to sleep in beds with mattresses. The unworthy ones were to live in the Work Institution. Here, there were bars on the windows, barbed wire on the walls, and the residents were divided into women and men. Both places had forced labor. Until 1961, the Poorhouse functioned as an institution where one lost their freedom. The place was operational until 1974, when it was closed as a "stain on the city."

In 2024, it will be 50 years since Denmark's last Poorhouse closed. Thousands of destinies have been admitted to the Poorhouse in the 102 years it existed. It is important that they are not forgotten but remembered. In the anniversary year, you will meet some of the children, women, and men who have had a life behind the high walls in a photo exhibition at the Poorhouse.

Thought-provoking exhibitions

At the museum, you can experience various special exhibitions that contextualize, specify, and individualize the history of welfare. In today's Denmark, approximately 13,500 children and young people are placed outside the home. The ideals, values, and views on humanity have changed over time, but the significance and consequences of placement have always been far-reaching. The museum's new, large exhibition "PLACED" tells the story of placed children across time - from the 1800s to today - told in the words of the placed individuals. "PLACED" consists of two exhibitions - one for young/adults and one for children aged 8-12.

You can also experience the exhibition "Seven Poor Children." Here, you follow a sibling group of seven, born in the years 1863-1878, through childhood, youth, adulthood, and for some, old age. You hear about Hermann, Sofus, Carl, Harald, Fritz, Harriet, and Axel's dreams, victories, and defeats in the struggle for a better life. Learn more at

Visit the Museum Garden

The Poorhouse has a utility and ornamental garden. The residents of the Poorhouse tended the garden for over 100 years. The place was self-sufficient with vegetables. Today, the garden is cultivated and cared for by the Museum Garden's Friends, a volunteer working group. You are very welcome to take a walk in the Museum Garden during your visit.

The museum has been awarded the Green Attraction label. The museum is part of Good Access and is wheelchair accessible. It is easy to get around, including with a wheelchair. Unfortunately, there is no elevator to the 2nd floor, where the exhibition "Seven Poor Children" is displayed. This prevented the preservation of the buildings.

Opening hours 2024

From February 6 to December 15, 2024, Denmark's Welfare Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. In week 7, 27-32, and week 42, it is open Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.


Children under 18 years/Members of the Museum Association: Free Adult: 95 DKK Students: 75 DKK

Price for a minimum of 10 paying guests: 80 DKK Group discount cannot be combined with other discount schemes.

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