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Current Exhibitions

Upcoming Exhibitions

Permanent Exhibitions

Current Exhibitions

Past Exhibitions


Upcoming Exhibitions

Ivar HKeep Clam and Carry On:  The Ivar Haglund Story

August 13 – November 8, 2015

Keep Clam and Carry On:  The Ivar Haglund Story consists of 3-dimensional objects, film, and photographs that document seafood magnate and global adventurer Ivar Haglund’s extraordinary life and accomplishments—emphasizing his Scandinavian heritage, innovation and entrepreneurship.

PLU at 125: Lutheran Education on the Frontier

September 26 - November 10, 2015

Scandinavian Immigrants to North American brought with them the core values of their home countries, including a deep appreciation for education. Based on the philosophy of Martin Luther, establishing schools was a top priority for Nordic communities across the United States. Pacific Lutheran University was founded by Norwegian Lutheran ministers in 1890, the first such institution west of the Rockies. This exhibition chronicles how Lutheran educational ideals have been pushed to encompass a greater and greater segment of society, both at Pacific Lutheran University and back in Scandinavia. It is produced by the Scandinavian Cultural Center at PLU as a traveling exhibition in recognition of PLU’s 125th anniversary.


AquavitSkål! Scandinaviaan Spirits

December 4, 2015 – February 28, 2016

Denmark, Norway and Sweden share a “spirited” tradition of enjoying beer and aquavit – sometimes together, sometimes separately.  This exhibition explores the cultural history of these beverages, follows those drinking traditions to Scandinavian-American communities, and answers questions like “What IS aquavit, anyway?” and “How do you ‘skål’ correctly?”   Fun, informative, and engaging, this exhibition will travel to Scandinavian museums across the United States between 2015 and 2017. 

Image: Aquavit from Old Ballard Liquor Co. on display at Yulefest 2014. Photo by Jason Brooks.

Permanent Exhibitions

The First Floor

The Dream of America is the story of immigration told in an exhibit of life-like dioramas. Travel with your family back to the nineteenth-century Scandinavian countryside to begin the journey to America, starting with the move to the city. The voyage continues as you board a ship to make the Atlantic crossing, and land at Ellis Island. The adventure goes on to experiences in New York, and the expansion to the Midwest, Great Plains, and Pacific Northwest, ending in Ballard. Here the growth and development of a typical small Northwest community is displayed, complete with a post office, church, drug store, blacksmith shop, and a family home.

The Second Floor
The Promise of the Northwest includes two galleries that focus on the logging and fishing industries, which employed many immigrants who brought skills learned in the old country. These galleries show the contributions of the Nordic pioneers to the settlement of the Pacific Northwest. The Folk Art Galleries display treasured and useful items the immigrants brought with them, including folk costumes, textiles, tools, and furniture. Temporary art, history, and heritage exhibits are housed in the three galleries at the west end of the hall.

The Third Floor
The third floor exhibitions illustrate the differences and the common bonds among the Scandinavian people. There is one gallery for each of the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Each gallery highlights that group’s special achievements in the Pacific Northwest.

Current Exhibitions

"Boxing Up the Past, Packing for the Future"
Teen Council 2014 - Exhibition UnveilingNow on View

The Nordic Heritage Teen Council presents “Boxing up the Past, Packing for the Future”. Now on view on the 3rd Floor.
The NHTC explored the idea of moving to an unfamiliar place, a prevalent theme at the Nordic Heritage Museum, and asked these questions: What would it be like to move to another country and what in the world would you take with you, especially if you could only choose a few possessions to bring? The NHTC created this exhibit to answer these questions, and to compare the experience of moving to a new place in the past, to what it might be like today.
Learn more about the Teen Council on our Education page.

Past Exhibitions

Finland Designed EnviornmentsFinland: Designed Environments

March 12 – July 26, 2015

Finland: Designed Environments looks at the explosion of creativity in Finnish design over the last 15 years. Examples of furnishings, fashion, and craft, as well as architecture and urbanism, illustrate how nearly every aspect of Finnish life incorporates thoughtful design thinking—from city streets and summer homes to fashion and food—and is marked by sensitivity to form and material. The exhibition is the first significant U.S. museum presentation since the 1990s to examine contemporary Finnish design. Organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Image: Jopo bicycle, 2000 (update of 1965 design). Eero Rislakki and Erkki Rahikainen (designer of 1965 original model), Erkki Rahikainen (engineer of original model), Markku Autero (designer of 2000 model)

1/2 - PORTRAITS, RAMONDiana Velasco: Dual Exposures

April 4 – June 21, 2015

Dual Exposures by Diana Velasco explores two bodies ofwork: the “Portraits” series highlights subjects who have a Danish parent and a non-Danish parent, presented twice in each photograph to illustrate the two cultural and national backgrounds they carry. The “Family Album” feature snapshots from the photographer’s family albums, where she has manipulated and mixed pictures of her parents and herself. Through the pictures she imagine what her life would have been like if she had grown up in Spain instead of in Denmark.

The exhibition is particularly timely, as Danish citizenship policies are currently undergoing a fundamental change. While traditionally dual citizenship has not been possible in Denmark– forcing people to choose between two identities–the Danish parliament recently voted to approve dual citizenship. The law change is expected to come into force in the summer of 2015.

Image: "1/2 - Portraits, Ramon" photograph by Diana Velasco


by Tod Gangler

Warner Sallman: The Master Painter

April 11, 2015 - April 21, 2015

A son of Finnish and Swedish immigrants, the Chicago-born commercial artist and painter Warner Sallman (1892-1968) has been cited by the New York Times as one of the most recognized artists of the 20th century. Sallman’s most popular and iconic image, the Head of Christ, has been reproduced over 1 billion times. A selection of Sallman’s works, both Christian and secular, will be displayed on the second floor from April 11-21 at the Nordic Heritage Museum.

Image: The Head of Christ by Warner Sallman

by Tod GanglerImaging the Arctic
Maria Coryell-Martin, Kristin Laidre & Finnish photographer Tiina Itkonen

December 12, 2014 – February 22, 2015

This interdisciplinary exhibit explores the impact of climate change on West Greenland’s ecology and culture through the work of three women: marine mammal biologist Dr. Kristin Laidre, expeditionary artist Maria Coryell-Martin, and Finnish photographer Tiina Itkonen.

The exhibit will center around the impact of climate change in the Arctic and sea ice loss on narwhals and polar bears. These iconic species of the Arctic are highly adapted to the extreme polar environment, and are also an integral part of Greenlandic culture as subsistence resources.

In the spring of 2013, Coryell-Martin accompanied Dr. Laidre to West Greenland where she created a collection of field art and stories about scientific research in the Arctic environment. Itkonen’s evocative photographs of the Greenland landscape and Inuit add an additional perspective on the rhythm of life in the Arctic.

Learn more at imagingthearctic.org

Image: watercolor of Kullorsuaq, Greenland by Maria Coryell-Martin

by Tod Gangler The Color of Time: Ballard from Dusk to Dawn

September 19 – November 16, 2014

Tod Gangler’s newest body of photographic work is a collection of views and visions of Ballard as it appears in the 21st century. He captures Ballard at all times of day, encompassing various notions of time, from hours to seasons and years. This extensive exhibition will showcase Gangler’s photography, which is simultaneously fleeting and fixed, providing multiple dimensions of particular places.

Support for The Color of Time: Ballard from Dusk to Dawn was provided by:

Washington State Arts Commission
4Culture ArtsFund Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
and the Maurer Family Foundation

Odin’s Eye
October 10 – November 9, 2014

Odin's Eye art exhibit seeks to build an inspirational bridge between Americans and Icelanders as artists visually interpret the

Norse Mythology through various mediums. Participating artists include Gunnella, Kristín Ragna Gunnarsdóttir, Sindri Már Sigfússon, Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir, Lulu Yee , Derek Weisberg, Pandora Andre-Beatty and Michael Linton Simpson. The exhibit is sponsored by Icelandair Cargo and Iceland Naturally.

Drawing for Home Sweet Home by Laurence LandoisHome Sweet Home
September 12-September 30

This installation of work and related drawings by French artist Laurence Landois is inspried by the story of Edith Macefield, who famously turned down one million dollars to sell her home in Ballard to make way for commercial development. The installation is guest-curated by Laurie LeClair.


Danish Modern: Design for Living by Arne Jacobsen
May 16 – August 31, 2014

The Nordic Heritage Museum went  “Mad Men” with the eye-catching and interactive exhibition Danish Modern: Design for Living. On view from May 16 through August 31, the exhibit highlighted the unique furnishing designed and made in Denmark during the 1950s and 1960s.

Dozens of vintage pieces from the period were on display by designers such as Poul Henningsen, Arne Jacobsen, Niels Otto Møller, Borge Mogensen, and Hans Wegner. Wegner is featured with his most popular designs including the Round Chair, later known simply as “the Chair” after it gained wide popularity in televised presidential debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

In addition, light fixtures, tablewares and serving pieces, and toys were included in the exhibition, as well as examples of marketing campaigns that brought Danish design to American consumers. Visitors could also listen to six contemporary Danish designers describe their work in relation to the question “What makes design Danish?”

The exhibition was produced by the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa.

Image: Egg chair and ottoman by Arne Jacobsen, designed in 1958. Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art

Exhibition support was provided by

Scan | Design Foundation by Inger & Jens Bruun American-Scandinavian Foundation 4Culture ArtsFund Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
and Bang & Olufsen.

Frederik Nielsen Pull, Twist, Blow: Transforming the Kingdom of Glass

December 13, 2013 - April 27, 2014

Glass is a part of everyday life for people all over the world, and in Sweden glass art is considered an institution. For many years, glass art in the country was defined by traditional techniques and patterns passed down through an apprentice system at glass factories in Glasriket (The Kingdom of Glass) in the region of Småland, where 15 of Sweden’s 16 glassworks are located. Following consolidations, buyouts, closure, and the globalization of the Swedish glass industry, new artists are interested in exploring their own artistic voices and challenging expectations of what glass should be.

The exhibition Pull, Twist, Blow: Transforming the Kingdom of Glass revealed the works of young, contemporary Swedish glass artists, how they relate to their predecessors, and how they are addressing the future of glass. Swedish artists featured in the exhibit include Peter Hermansson, Annika Jarring, Åsa Jungnelius, Ingalena Klenell, Simon Klenell, Helena Kågebrand, Matilda Kästel, Ludvig Löfgren, Fredrik Nielsen, and Karl Magnus Nilsson.

In collaboration with the Glass Factory in Boda, Sweden, and specifically for this exhibition, each of the artists selected objects from the Glass Factory’s extensive collection to use as a reference to create their own original work. The pieces that served as inspiration were displayed alongside the new works, including pieces by Monica Backström, Kjell Engman, Hertha Hillfon, Ulrica Hydman-Vallien, Erik Höglund, Vicke Lindstrand, Bengt Lindström, and Bertil Vallien.

Exhibition support was provided by:
The National Endowment for the Arts, Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation Washington State Arts Commission, Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass, 4Culture, ArtsFund, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, and the Guendolen Carkeek Plestcheeff Fund for the Decorative and Design Arts.

Photo: work by Fredrik Nielsen.

Tree of Life Eino – 50 Years of Making Sculptures

September 27 - December 8, 2013

Finnish artist Eino Romppanen marked 2013 as his 50th year of work as a stone sculptor, and this exhibition celebrated his work and career. Eino Romppanen, known to the art world simply as Eino, was born in Finland and has lived and worked in the United States since 1962. Over these years, Eino has worked in 22 countries and his commissioned works can be found in all five Nordic countries, including the Stockholm Stadium, once host to the Olympic Games. Throughout his 50 years as an artist, Eino has explored various forms of expression, ranging from bronze and marble portraits to abstract monoliths to solar-powered sculpture that silently rotates.

Focusing primarily on Eino’s stone sculptures, the exhibition at the Nordic Heritage Museum provided a window into the development of Eino’s formal and thematic repertoire, his preoccupation with the relationship between nature and culture, human body and landscape, as well as his exploration of sculptural form.

Dressing Swedish Dressing Swedish: From Hazelius to Salander

September 13 – November 10, 2013

This exhibit explored the complex relationship between fashion and traditional folk costumes. Garments, fabric, and designs are used to create complex family trees, erase time periods, and articulate multiple places of belonging. Through displays featuring costumes both traditional and re-created by contemporary designers, along with new urban dress from Sami and Swedish designers, the exhibition tackled the notion of what it means to “dress Swedish” and how this has developed over time.

Pieces from the Nordic Heritage Museum permanent collection, such as Swedish folk costumes, Ballard bunads, and textile artifacts, also accompanied the exhibition. In addition, local members of the Swedish community showcased outfits that reflect individual and contemporary ways of dressing Swedish and Svenska Skolan (Seattle’s Swedish School for children) showed off Pippi Longstocking costumes.

The exhibit was produced for House of Sweden, Washington D.C. for the Migration and Globalization theme, and co-curated by Dr. Charlotte Hyltén-Cavallius, Multicultural Society in Tumba, Sweden, and Dr. Lizette Gradén, Nordic Heritage Museum.

Exhibition support was provided by:
The Jane Isakson Lea Foundation, The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, Swedish Council of America, 4Culure, ArtsFund, and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.

Inspired by Nordic fashion, clothing designer Mira Bonell held a photoshoot of her Svart Sol colthing collection. View some of the photographs by Manuela Insixiengmay and more information here.

by Per Magnus Gjerde Ørnulf Opdahl - Mood Paintings of the North

June 28 – September 1, 2013

Ørnulf Opdahl is Norway’s most distinguished contemporary landscape painter, and one of the most noteworthy artists working in the Nordic countries today. Opdahl’s works are distinctly influenced by the dramatic west coast of Norway. He lives and works on the island of Godøy, which, like the Pacific Northwest, is marked by contrasts in elevation, transitory weather, and ephemeral light. The landscape of the Sunmøre Mountains and nearby fjords informs his work and reflects his knowledge and affinity for his surroundings: the glaciers, the trails around the fjords, and dramatic cliff faces.

His approach to landscape work is meditative, and his subdued palate conveys a sense of the atmospheric; paintings of colossal mountains and deep fjords are rendered expressively in shades of grays and charcoal black, bringing to the viewer a sense of proximity and radiance.

Read a review by Michael Upchurch in The Seattle Times

Exhibition support was provided by:
Synnøve Fielding, Erik Breivik, 4Culure, The American-Scandinavian Foundation, ArtsFund, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, and the Sons of Norway Foundation.

Photo by Per Magnus Gjerde.

Fishing for the Russians Fishing for the Russians: Marine Resources Company 1978-1989

May 21 – August 25, 2013

During the last decades of the Cold War, American trawlers - including many from the Norwegian-American fishing community centered in Seattle – delivered huge quantities of bottom fish to Soviet processing vessels operating under the auspices of US-USSR Marine Resources Company (MRC) in US waters off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska. This exhibit presented a short history of this unique joint fishing venture.

by Lasse Berre Scissors for a Brush

March 22 - June 16, 2013

Using just scissors and paper as her tools, Danish-Norwegian artist Karen Bit Vejle has created a stunning, multi-faceted world where design, detail, and wonder meet. Psaligraphy — the art of paper cutting — is an art form that takes painstaking patience and concentration. Bit Vejle’s works are formed from a large, continuous piece of paper that is folded one, two, and three times, and then cut using only a pair of scissors. Every single scissor cut is carefully planned, as the slightest mistake can have disastrous consequences for the finished result.

Exhibition curator Sissel Guttormsen says, “Her magical cuttings are rooted in a tradition that has known a long journey through history. But she has created a personal style and technique that are entirely her own. For more than 35 years she has been absorbed, fascinated, and deeply committed to this art form that developed from small, simple snowflakes to unusually large and highly complex image cuttings. She is one of very few in Europe who can cut at such an advanced technical and artistic level.” Watch an interview with Karen Bit Vejle about the exhibition.

In addition, alongside Bit Vejle’s work, the exhibition featured four original paper cuts by Hans Christian Andersen on loan from the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense, Denmark.

View a guide to the exhibition, with information about each piece featured in the show.

Exhibition support was provided by:
Scan|Design Foundation by Inger & Jens Bruun, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, 4Culture, Washington State Arts Commission, Norwegian Association for Arts and Crafts, and Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Birch Painting Bad Art? 1,000 Birch Board Pictures from Sweden

November 30, 2012 – March 3, 2013

The Birchwood plaques featured in this visiting exhibition from the Backlund & Håkansson Collection in Sweden represent a ubiquitous form of folk art from unknown origins in northern Europe. Sold as tourist souvenirs for more than a century, these humble objects have spread around the world. The mixed-media paintings represent a cultural heritage about to be lost, an alternative aesthetic tradition of newly urbanized people, and they mirror the modest dreams of those who rarely traveled but took pride in documenting the few journeys they made.

This exhibition challenged notions of what makes fine art vs. popular art, bad taste vs. good taste. What expressions of human creativity can be called art? Who decides, and does it matter?

View the exhibition catalog online here.

Exhibition support was provided by:
Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, 4Culture, Arts Fund, The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, and Västra Götaland Region.

Tore Hansen The Impression of Amundsen: Roald Amundsen’s South Pole Expedition 1910–1912

January 18 – March 3, 2013

Roald Amundsen’s personal diary from the South Pole expedition of 1910–1912 was published for the first time in 2010, shedding new light on this historic expedition. His diary also provided the inspiration for a new exhibition of paintings and graphic works from three prominent Norwegian artists: Tore Hansen, Ulf Nilsen, and Håvard Vikhagen. The artists were invited by the Fram Museum in Oslo and Norwegian publishing company ART PRO AS to read Amundsen’s diary and create artworks inspired by the experience. The resulting exhibition is a fresh perspective on Amundsen and his amazing expedition.

Exhibition support was provided by:
Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, 4Culture, Arts Fund, Royal Norwegian Consulate General, and Norwegian.com.

To me there’s no other choice — Raoul Wallenberg 1912-2012
Raoul Wallenberg
December 4, 2012 – January 13, 2013

This exhibition was produced by the Swedish Institute on behalf of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the Forum for Living History, and shined a light on the story of Wallenberg, a Swedish businessman and diplomat who saved thousands of from the Nazi extermination camps during the final stages of WWII. According to Stina Mansfeld, exhibition content producer, "It is an attempt to portray the man behind a heroic myth. And to explore the moral and existential lessons where we all can learn from his life and choices.”

Exhibition support was provided by:
Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, 4Culture, Arts Fund, and the The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation.

Eight Seasons in Sápmi, the Land of the Sámi People
photo by Birgitte Aarestrup
August 31 through November 4, 2012

Eight Seasons in Sápmi, the Land of the Sámi People, was a multi-layered exhibition which explored the rich culture of the Sámi, the indigenous population of northern Europe. The exhibit was a collaborative effort featuring more than 40 photographs by Danish-American photographer Birgitte Aarestrup; artifacts, text, and photographs illustrating Sámi history, traditional life, reindeer herding, and oral tradition from Ájtte, the Swedish Mountain and Sami Museum; and Sámi handicrafts, known as Duodji, from the collections of Sámi Duodji, the Sámi Handicraft Foundation.

Exhibition support was provided by:
Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, 4Culture, Arts Fund, the Swedish Council of America, The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, and by Jokkmokk Municipality, Norrbotten County Council, and the Swedish Arts Council.

Diverse Landscapes of Iceland
Photography by Bill Stafford

October 2 – November 11, 2012

The Iceland experience includes waterfalls, fiords, fishing villages, volcanic activity, and urban Reykjavik. Bill Stafford took viewers on a photographic adventure, presenting the diversity and beauty of contemporary Iceland.

Fabulous Iceland: From Sagas to Novels
Portraits of Contemporary Icelandic Authors

October 12 – November 8, 2012

Iceland’s rich narrative tradition dates back to the Middle Ages and is often apparent in contemporary Icelandic literature. Through a series of interviews, journalist Pétur Blöndal asked 23 contemporary Icelandic authors to describe their relationships with Icelandic literary traditions and the influence these traditions have on their work. The result is an Icelandic literary history, distilled into individual short stories and coupled with portraits taken by photographer Kristinn Ingvarsson.

Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation
Eero Saarinen Chair
May 25 through August 19, 2012

One of the 20th century’s most prolific architects, Eero Saarinen built some of the most iconic buildings of his time, including the TWA Terminal at New York’s JFK Airport, Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C., and the St. Louis Arch.

Guest curated by Mina Marefat, architectural historian and professor at Georgetown University, the exhibition provided a visually rich overview of Saarinen’s key architectural projects and timeless furniture pieces. The exhibition was augmented by a rich array of photographs and documents that chronicle his childhood in Finland to his life in America. The exhibition highlighted the principles which guided Saarinen’s work, confirming his lasting values and a renewed relevance of his work for the present generation.

Exhibition support was provided by:
Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, 4Culture, Arts Fund, AIA Seattle, Docomomo WEMA, Finlandia Foundation, Finn Spark, Finnish American Chamber of Commerce, Inform Interiors, and Knoll.

Borders at the Nordic Heritage Museum
Sculptures by Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir and Photos by Murray Head
Vision II
June 6 - August 28, 2012

Icelandic sculptor Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir was featured in two cross-town exhibitions. Stretching throughout Westlake Park for the entire summer, the installation Borders consisted of 26 life-size androgynous human figure sculptures, 13 made using aluminum and 13 made of cast iron.

Coinciding with the installation at Westlake Park was Borders at the Nordic Heritage Museum, an exhibition of smaller figures by Thórarinsdóttir and photographs by Murray Head of the exhibition when New York City hosted Borders in 2011.

Exhibition support was provided by:
Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, and The Roosevelt Hotel.
With Special Thanks to: Iceland Naturally, Seattle-Reykjavik Sister City Assc., Scott White Contemporary, Icelandair, Eimskip Shipping, and the Consul General of Iceland in New York City and the Icelandic Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Image credit: Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir, Vision II, 2005, cast iron and glass. Photo: Arnaldur Halldorsson.

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