Ingrid – February 5, 2019
I recently returned from a trip to Seattle to see my brother, Luke. He lives in the now-trendy Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Ballard is not only where many Nordic immigrants came in the late 19th century to find jobs such as loggers, fishers and boat builders, but also where a new Nordic Heritage Museum has been relocated from its old digs in a 1907 schoolhouse.
The museum is now a sleekly modern, 57,000 square-foot architectural beauty on Market Street, designed by Mithun, the company responsible for such major American museums as Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Newseum, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In between Nordic bites and libations in the uber-cool Ballard area, Luke and I, his wife and their new baby (who slept blissfully bundled up in her stroller most of the afternoon) explored the new museum, which opened in May. Its physical structure is organized around a linear “fjord,” and faceted white walls are a nod to Scandinavia’s glacial environment.
But what comes through more than anything in the expansive showcase dedicated to Nordic and Nordic American art, community and history is the museum’s mission to go beyond preservation to storytelling.
One of the principal reasons so many immigrants from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland came to the Pacific Northwest all those years ago is because it reminded them of home. The weather and landscape were familiar as well as the fishing, farming and lumber industries.
Taking comfort in familiar surroundings in a new land, many more Scandinavian immigrants followed their countrymen and women to this area, though the Midwest and Great Plains states were first to attract Nordic people to the U.S.
In Ballard, named after steamship captain William Ballard, there’s an “ostentatious” sense of Scandinavia. Distilled aquavit can be enjoyed there as well as fermented fish gelatin (I didn’t try that!) and a village-wide smörgåsborg of Norwegian cheeses, Danish smørrebrød, and Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam, to name just a few specialties. A statue of the Norse explorer Leif Erikson watches over the Shilshole Bay, and flags from every Nordic country wave proudly in the misty breeze.
I can certainly see why Seattle and its environs beckoned those from my ancestral region of the world. Touring the city, and especially the new museum, I decided to purchase Farfar a gift and bring it to him at The Danish Home shortly after my return home.
The question was, what to get him? I finally settled upon Works of Love, a book by the famous Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard that I found in the Nordic Museum store. Farfar is very well read and can speak knowingly about so many topics. Kierkegaard is a bit heavy for me, but I’m excited to give Farfar the book and ponder its lofty contents with him. I figure the title is appropriate for Valentine’s Day, too.
Speaking of Valentine’s Day, there’s a lot going on at The Danish Home in celebration, including a dice game, chocolate fountain, rose drawing, heart donuts, Cupid bingo, tri-ominoes, and a showing of the movie “Valentine’s Day.”
After exploring the depths of Kierkegaard together, Farfar and I may need to indulge in a light rom-com!