The National Nordic Museum in Seattle, WA moved from an old elementary school building into a new museum space on neighboring community Ballard’s waterfront on May 5, 2018. Ruth and I hadn’t been to the old one in several years. It wasn’t that good and always seemed temporary. Now I know why. It was. This new facility is so new that our GPS took us to the remodeling Daniel Webster School in a residential area of Ballard, so Ruth and I had to find the new museum at 2655 NW Market Street. It was well worth the effort.
The great new 2-level facility has expanded the meaning of Nordic to include not just Norway, Denmark and Sweden but also Finland, Iceland, Sápmi, the home of the Sami people, Åland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland. There is lots of info about all of them and bountiful artifacts from their different cultures. For example, I learned that there is no real word for “please” in the Danish language, while the global sea level is rising Finland’s landmass is also rising up to .35 inches each year, and most of Sápmi lies north of the Arctic Circle. This I learned on the 1st level where there is a Visiting Exhibit Gallery, an orientation film about Nordic culture, and an entire Viking ship outside. The Viking rowboat inside has the horse masthead seen below. Upstairs is more traditionally museum-like. It’s all excellent.
Why is a Nordic Culture Museum appropriate in Seattle? Washington State’s population is 12.5% Nordic heritage. Minnesota’s is more than 32%. Between 1820 and 1920, 2.1 million Scandinavians came to America to put down roots. When this museum explores Nordic culture, it notes that nature and land use are both important to all Scandinavians. That’s why so many of them emigrated to Washington’s Skagit Valley to grow tulips. They have influenced all aspects of American culture. English words of Scandinavian origin include bylaw, shingle, and guest. But not “please”, which is of Latin derivation. As the new National Nordic Museum says, “Immigrants to the United States brought these values with them and left an imprint wherever they settled.”
ps That red and white thing is a Danish bobbin lace pillow and the animals are Icelandic sheep.