Exploring our Viking side

Nordic News journeys through the new location of the Nordic Museum.

“Abiding respect for nature, openness to new ideas, and devotion to social justice.”  Though these values may be iconic to Seattle, the Nordic Museum attributes them to the Nordic people as well as the Nordic immigrants who significantly shaped our community. The Nordic Museum pays tribute to these contributions and furthermore honors the Nordic culture, both past and present.

While the Nordic Heritage Museum has existed in the Seattle area for more than 30 years, its new home in the heart Ballard (right off Main Street) makes it more accessible to the casual, pedestrian tourist. The 57,000-sq. ft. museum and cultural center, which opened on May 5, 2018, is eye-catching with its sophisticated, modern, Scandinavian-inspired design.

Once inside the museum, visitors are greeted with inviting natural light which illuminates glass birds on the ceiling – flying in the direction of the museum. As visitors wait in line to pay for admission, they can view a map of the Nordic region which covers the entire wall behind them.

As they then make their way into the Nordic Orientation Gallery, they meet the people who make up Europe’s northernmost countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Through a brief orientation film, interactive tablets depicting daily life and the observation of nation-specific, iconic artifacts, visitors begin to get an understanding of who the Nordic people are. 

Climbing the ascetically pleasing fjord staircase makes entering the next exhibit a treat. Here, in the Sense of Place gallery, visitors are immersed in the natural beauty of the Nordic region. Sitting between birchwood trees, they watch the forested landscape unfold. 

After experiencing the vastness of the Nordic landscape, visitors are able to gain a greater appreciation for the advancement of the Nordic people. This is portrayed in the next exhibit, the Nordic Region gallery. From their early origins to Viking’s reign, to the reformation, to industrialization, to the world wars and the modern era: the museum tells the story of each development with small collections of emblematic artifacts and concise – at times, a bit too concise – explanations.

In the following exhibit, Nordic America gallery, visitors get a chance to learn about lumberjacks, fishermen, craftsmen and farmers who immigrated from the Nordic region and help found the greater Seattle area. By looking at their well-worn tools and artistic folk costumes, visitors become acquainted with these hard-working yet joyful people.

Lastly, visitors get to engage with Nordic values directly in the Nordic Perspectives Forum gallery. After answering a brief survey, visitors can see how their political beliefs relate to those of the Nordic people.

Like the museum’s introductory statement says, people of all backgrounds can discover the “values, traditions, art and spirit of the Nordic peoples”.

Counter to other museums in Seattle, the Nordic Museum is high school student-friendly as they qualify as ‘youth’ and pay the discounted admissions price of 10 dollars and the 2-hour parking fee is not too expensive either. Overall, the Nordic Museum is an affordable and eye-opening day trip for any Viking.