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The Nordic Museum

Celebrate the Nordic Heritage in the Pacific Northwest at this internationally recognized museum

Travel back in time to see what life was like for the Scandinavian immigrants in Seattle at the turn of the century. Photo credit: Missy Bouchat

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During the late 19th century, Scandinavian countries were experiencing population growth, famine, and religious and political repression, which resulted in a massive migration to the new lands of America. Roughly 1.3 million Swedes left their homes to find new hope abroad, and by 1890, 7.8 percent of Seattle's population was made up of Scandinavian-born residents. Today, the Scandinavian culture is alive and thriving, especially in the once industrial neighborhood of Ballard, where the Nordic Heritage Museum tells its history.

Established in 1890, the Nordic Museum is now the largest of its kind in the United States. It is dedicated to educating on the heritage of Seattle's Nordic immigrants. The museum exhibits art, objects and collections from the five Nordic countries -- Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Originally founded in an old elementary school in a residential neighborhood of Ballard, the museum recently relocated in May of this year to its beautiful new home at 2655 NW Market St. The new building is over 57,000 square feet, with plenty of space for their permanent exhibits, temporary installations, as well as a 4,200-square-foot auditorium, Sun Terrace, lounge, classrooms, and a craft room. The new museum is so beautiful, in fact, that they encourage renting the venue as a space for weddings, holiday parties, and can accommodate most event requests.

Currently, The Vikings Begin is on exhibit from now until April 14, 2019; displaying new research and recent discoveries that tell the story of the Scandinavian Vikings. Produced by the Uppsala University Museum, Gustavianum, the exhibit showcases their society, economy, religion and culture with original artifacts and archaeological discoveries. Permanently on exhibit is Nordic Journeys, the original immigration story expanded and updated for the new museum space. The exhibit goes back in time 12,000 years, and shows the evolution of Nordic life and culture. It spreads out over five different galleries, focusing on each Nordic state and exhibiting priceless artifacts. The museum often exhibits the artwork of local Scandinavian residents, including the work of Susan Ringstad Emery, as well as more famously known artists and designers like Bjørn Wiinblad and Marimeko.  

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and closed most holidays. General admission is $15, students are $10, and children 0-4 are free. Special Exhibits (such as The Vikings Begin) are an additional $5. Museum admission is free every first Thursday of the month, as part of Seattle's First Thursdays program.  

The Nordic Museum is easy to find, located just a short half mile from historic Ballard Ave., a great area to grab lunch and browse the trendy shops, many of which still celebrate their Scandinavian roots. If you're looking for a fun and educational way to spend a weekend afternoon, the Ballard neighborhood is a great place to start. The Scandinavian culture and heritage is still proudly celebrated today, and the new Nordic Museum is a beautiful representation of that.

The Nordic Museum, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, 2655 NW Market St., Seattle, 206.789.5707,

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