What Is In Vesterheim’s Collections

Folk Art (numbering approximately 3,000 items)

Handcrafted Norwegian folk art and folk art in the Norwegian tradition, including:

Furnishings (numbering approximately 7,000 items)

Objects chosen or custom-made to furnish public and private environments:

  • Home: furniture, tableware, household textiles
  • Church: altar paintings and surrounds, pulpits, baptismal fonts, pews, serving wares, paraments
  • Educational Institutions: desks, samplers, teaching aids
  • Cultural Organizations: furnishings and ceremonial artifacts from organizations like the Chicago Norske Klub, Bygdelags, Sons of Norway and others
  • Business: desks, shop signs, display units

Fine Art (numbering approximately 3,000 items)

Works of visual art by Norwegian immigrant and Norwegian-American artists:

  • Oil paintings
  • Watercolors
  • Drawings
  • Prints
  • Sculptures

Tools and Technology (numbering approximately 6,000 items)

Objects used in specific activities, as distinguished from objects that furnish a location:

  • Domestic: production and care of textiles, food preparation, and production of furnishings
  • Industry: machines used in industries that relate to Norwegian-American history
  • Inventions: notable innovations by Norwegian immigrants and Norwegian Americans (where possible, prefer examples closest to the original prototype designed/made by the inventor)
  • Agriculture: crop production, animal husbandry
  • Transportation: wagons, sleighs, boats, automobiles, skis, skates, navigational tools
  • Professions: scientific instruments, medical tools
  • Entertainment: model ships and buildings, musical instruments, toys, pipes (with the exception of items considered as folk art)
  • Weaponry: hunting and fishing, military

Clothing and Personal Adornment (numbering approximately 5,000 items)

Norwegian and Norwegian-American garments for everyday, special occasions, and occupational dress:

  • Folk costumes
  • Dresses and suits
  • Children’s clothing
  • Norwegian sweaters
  • Mittens, gloves, and socks
  • Shoes
  • Jewelry, medals, and buttons
  • Woven bands and belts
  • Hats
  • Purses and wallets

Architecture (numbering 12 historic structures)

Buildings that exemplify or contrast Norwegian and Norwegian-American construction methods and forms. Find more information about the historic buildings in Vesterheim’s Open Air Division here.

Archives (numbering approximately 14,000)

Photographs, documents, and other archival materials that show or define the Norwegian-American experience:

  • Photographs of people, places, and events
  • Vesterheim institutional history
  • Support collections for artifacts: materials relating to the makers, owners, or donors of artifacts

Library - Special Collections (Numbering approximately 5,700 items)

Books and periodicals that document the reading and publishing history of Norwegian immigrants and Norwegian Americans, with special emphasis on books and periodicals printed in Norwegian language in America:

  • Bibles and hymnals
  • Catechisms and sermons
  • History
  • Music
  • Literature

Library – Reference Collection (Numbering approximately 7,000 items)

Reference materials to support study of the collection:

  • Norwegian history
  • Norwegian immigration history
  • Norwegian and Norwegian-American folk art
  • Norwegian and Norwegian-American fine art
  • Folk costumes
  • Music
  • Norwegian cooking and recipes

Vesterheim’s Collecting Policy

For its collection, Vesterheim Museum considers gifts of objects, library materials, and archives materials related to Norwegian and Norwegian-American culture or history, including:

  • Objects brought by Norwegian immigrants.
  • Objects made or used by Norwegian immigrants in the United States.
  • Other objects made or used in the United States which represent the Norwegian-American experience.
  • Books and periodicals that were brought by or read by Norwegian immigrants.
  • Books and periodicals that were printed in Norwegian and published in the U.S.
  • Books and periodicals that relate directly to subjects represented by Vesterheim’s object collection, i.e. folk art, Norwegian-American history.
  • Historic photographs related to Norwegian-American history and experience.
  • Archival material related directly to the history and operation of Vesterheim.
  • Archival material related directly to artifacts in Vesterheim’s collection.