Upcoming Exhibitions

Permanent Exhibitions

Past Exhibitions


Upcoming Exhibitions

AquavitSkål! Scandinavian Spirits

December 11, 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.

Past Exhibitions

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.


Ivar HKeep Clam and Carry On: The Ivar Haglund Story

August 14 – 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.
Click here to read more

"Boxing Up the Past, Packing for the Future"
Teen Council 2014 - Exhibition Unveiling

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.

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.

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