Last year the Nordic Museum was located in an old brick school building crammed with all sorts of mementos and artifacts from all over Scandinavia. I remember walking through the rooms each telling the story of the Nordic people through old sea trunks and family heirlooms donated to the museum by generations of Nordic people living in the Seattle area. Just imagining how each artifact displayed told a story of the one who brought it to their new life in America. Back then it was called the Nordic Heritage Museum. Today it is simply called the Nordic Museum.
May 5th, 2018 the Museum opened it’s doors to the public with Nordic leaders from across a few of the Nordic countries officially opening the museum. I would have loved to have been there for the grand opening to meet Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, but I had to graduate from Northwest University on the day. Instead made a visit during the week after the grand opening to view this brand new museum.
The museum integrates Nordic sensibilities into every aspect of its physical design. It involves around four core themes based on the key values that connect the Nordic countries with the Pacific Northwest. (Nordic Museum)
Today The Nordic Museum has a new location in the heart of Ballard’s market street close by to the Ballard Locks. Here the building is designed in the Nordic/ Scandinavian design resembling the clean airy look most Scandinavian design is known for, simple and natural look. Inside, the main corridor is done to look like a glacial fjord with the second-floor exhibits connected by sky bridges to symbolize crossing from old to new Nordic life, a theme the museum draws together as the main concept. The large welcome map carved into the walls of the fjord of the Nordic countries towers over the hall as visitors walk down the corridor to the first gallery.
The first gallery is the Nordic Orientation Gallery where the visitor is introduced to the Nordic countries: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Aland Islands, and The people of Sami. The striking thing about this gallery is how little did I know of other countries considered Nordic. I had always thought the first six countries on the list as real Nordic countries, but never thought of Faroe, Aland Islands as separate Nordic countries (both are associated with Denmark) and the people of Sami (Sweden where they reside). There are interactive displays telling about each of the countries and the uniqueness of the people from those countries on what it means to be Nordic. I could identify with a few of the people describing the mindset of those who are Nordic. Like the meaning of hygge, and sisu.
On the second floor is where the main galleries are located. In the Sense of Place Gallery, the room is set as if in a forest with pillows shaped as rocks to sit on and watch beautiful visuals of the natural world of the Nordic countries. This representation gives a sense of how passionate the Nordic people are about the natural world in which they live in and how nature plays a huge part in their daily lives.
Nordic Journeys expands the Museum’s classic immigration story to include a broader understanding of Nordic life and culture as it has evolved over the last twelve thousand years. (Nordic Museum)
From there it moves on into the Nordic Region Gallery which tells the history of the Nordic countries from the very beginning to present day. Important events that shaped the region, the notable contribution each country made in the world (think Nobel-Peace Prize) and the struggles of the Nordic people the carve out an existence in a sometimes harsh environment. This harsh existence would eventually lead to families and individuals to leave their country of birth to immigrate to the United States. The Nordic American Gallery give the visitor an overview of how these immigrants shaped the United States, how they contribute to the building of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest region.
Ballard where this museum is located in where the majority of Nordic people settled in the Seattle area. When I was a kid my parents always referred to the area as “little Scandinavia.” My family is Danish-British, but my Danish Great-Grandfather did not settle in Ballard area, instead made his way to Southern Oregon-Northern California. Later my Grandpa would join the Navy during World War Two in Seattle and my parents would move to Seattle area after getting married. Just seeing the old steamship trunks stacked up together, the mention of Ellis Island, and World War One, brought back the old stories Grandpa would tell me about my Great Grandfather who immigrated from Denmark to the United States back in 1910.
I have always been proud of my Nordic heritage, and so the last gallery to explore of the Nordic Perspective tied together the reasons why my nature is openness, social justice, innovation, and a connection with nature is very strong in how I live my life.
To make it even more Nordic, I had lunch at Larsen’s Bakery where I treated myself to turkey Havarti croissant with a raspberry Danish. I could live off Danishes if it meant never getting fat and the croissant was well worth the flaky pastry all over the table! I remember when I was little my parents would stop by to pick up Christmas Kringle and other Danish Christmas treats to celebrate. Guess the Danish in me still needs a fix.
Overall the museum has an art gallery quality feel. I did not see much for little kids to do yet and some of the museums was wrapping up construction and the cafe (Freya) was yet to be open for business. This could be due to going during the opening week and so displays are still being added to. If you enjoy history or the Nordic culture, this would be a great museum to check out in Seattle.