One in ten people in King County, Seattle’s westernmost county in Washington State, claim Nordic heritage. That means their roots come from one of the five Scandanavian countries: Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Denmark.
The Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, north of downtown across Salmon Bay, was first settled largely by Scandanavians who founded the Seattle maritime industry, and also the shingle factories that at the turn of the century were the largest in the country. It’s for this rich history that in 1980 the Nordic Heritage Museum was founded.
Right now, the Museum occupies an old school building they’ve remodeled extensively to accomodate their growing collection and interactive exhibits.
• The first floor’s theme is the old country and the reasons people immigrated to the US.
• The second floor houses changing art exhibits by contemporary Scandanavian artists.
• The third floor has rooms for each of the five Scandanavian countries, complete with folk art and artifacts brought from the old country by the earliest settlers.
• Every exhibit is rich with sights and sounds that bring history to life: in the fishing display with half of a full-sized rowboat, you hear seagulls screaming and waves crashing; at another exhibit with a doorway that says “deportation” at the top, you hear a woman crying from a speaker on the other side.
The Museum has plans to build a completely new facility on Market Street in downtown Ballard, but that won’t be finished until at least 2012. Still, if you happen to be in town and feel your inner Viking call, this is the place to go. And you may otherwise never find out that the world-famous Legos building blocks were created by Denmark’s Kirk Christiansen in 1932.