Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum
|Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum|
|Location||523 West Water Street
Decorah, Iowa, USA
|Director||Steven L. Johnson|
|Website||Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum|
The Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa is the oldest and most comprehensive museum in the United States devoted to a single immigrant ethnic group. The collection contains over 24,000 artifacts reflecting the experience of Norwegian-Americans, particularly in the Upper Midwest. The museum compound consists of 16 buildings, including a restored stone mill, a Norwegian Lutheran church, and several houses. Some of its buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Vesterheim Museum was founded in 1877 as the Norwegian-American Historic Museum. It began as a part of nearby Luther College. In 1967, the Norwegian-American Museum incorporated, becoming a separate entity from Luther College. In 1977 it added Vesterheim to its name.
The name Vesterheim appropriately comes from the Norwegian for "western home". The museum sponsors educational events, publications, and lectures related to its mission. It offers classes in traditional cooking, arts and crafts. Each year it sponsors national exhibitions in these traditional Norwegian folk arts: rosemaling, weaving, wood carving, and knife-making. Many of these arts and crafts are on display annually during the Nordic Fest conducted during the last weekend of July.
The Painter-Bernatz Mill is at 200 North Mill Street, in the open air division of the museum. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 as Building Number 74000816. The Old Stone Mill was built by William Painter, one of Winneshiek County's earliest European settlers, in 1851 and is commonly believed to be the oldest building in Decorah.
Norris Miller House
The Norris Miller House is at 118 North Mill Street, in the open air division of the museum. Norris Miller, a carpenter from Ohio, built this house in west Decorah in 1855-56. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Norwegian immigrants Hans and Anna Haugan built the house on a farm southeast of Decorah during the 1860s and lived in it at least until 1880. The house is a representative example of the husmann dwelling (Norwegian: hytte) used in Norway during the 19th Century. Husmann is the name for the Norwegian tenant farmer with leasehold estate somewhat similar to the Swedish torp or the Scottish crofter. The husmann formed a key element of the Norwegian farm culture.The house used by typical husmann was often a simple log cabin or cottage made of rough hewed lumber.
This represents a typical Norwegian landowner’s home. The Valdres House was built about 1795 on the Moahaugen farm in Heggenes, Øystre Slidre in Oppland, Norway. The house was enlarged and a covered entry added in the 1860s. Vesterheim acquired the house through the efforts of the rosemaler Sigmund Aarseth and of Kolbein Dahle, director of the Valdres Folk Museum in Fagernes, in the valley of Valdres, Norway. The house was taken down and shipped to Vesterheim in 1975-76. The house was reassembled by Norwegian carpenters commissioned by the Valdres Folk Museum.
Erik Egge built this house in 1852 on his farm five miles southeast of Decorah. In July 1853, he married Helen Pedersdatter, a widow with two small children. From December 1853 to March 1854, the newlyweds, Rev. U. Vilhelm Koren and his wife Elisabeth, lived with the Egges. Ulrik Vilhelm Koren was a pioneer Lutheran minister, who played a significant role in the development of the spiritual and intellectual development of Norwegians in America. Koren played an active part in the Synod of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, holding various including president of the synod from 1894 until his death in 1910. Elisabeth Koren was an author of The Diary of Elisabeth Koren, 1853-1855 which provides detailed insight into what it was like for four adults and two children to spend the winter in a one-room 14-by-16-foot log house.
- Vesterheim Museum and Library Chronicles Lives of Norwegian Immigrants (Vesterheim Museum and Library)
- The Old Stone Mill in Decorah, Iowa (Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum)
- Haugen, Einar (1965) Norwegian English Dictionary (University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, Wisconsin).
- Hassing, Arne Norway’s Organized Response to Emigration (The Norwegian-American Historical Association. Volume 25: page 54).
- The Diary of Elisabeth Koren, 1853-1855 (Koren, Elizabeth. New York : Arno Press, 1979, ©1955)
- Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum website
- Vesterheim - Open Air Division
- Sons of Norway review
- Nordic Fest
- Husmann - Norwegian Farmer Groups
- Norsk Folkemuseum - Exhibits
- Norwegian farms - background information