What is Vesterheim?

Vesterheim is the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center, with over 33,000 artifacts, 12 historic buildings, a Folk Art School, and a library and archives. This treasure showcases the most extensive collection of Norwegian-American artifacts in the world.

Vesterheim’s exhibitions explore the diversity of American immigration through the lens of the Norwegian-American experience and highlight the best in historic and contemporary Norwegian folk and fine arts. Vesterheim was named one of “15 Best Small-Town Museums in the U.S.” by the world-respected travel guide, Fodor’s, and USA Today named Vesterheim one of “ten great places in the nation to admire American folk art.”

But you don’t have to be Norwegian-American to enjoy all the beauty and wonder Vesterheim has to offer. We invite you to explore the ongoing saga of all immigrants to the United States. In our differences we discover our similarities. Vesterheim welcomes you and encourages you to enjoy the objects and exhibitions through your own lens, your own story.

Museum History

In 1877, Norwegian Americans began collecting and preserving objects at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, documenting their chapter of the immigrant story, making them pioneers in the preservation of cultural diversity in America.

That early collection has grown into one of the most comprehensive museums in the United States dedicated to a single immigrant group—Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, now an independent not-for-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).

Folk Art School

Vesterheim offers a wide range of courses in rosemaling, woodcarving and woodworking, textile arts, knifemaking, and food traditions. More information about Vesterheim’s Folk Art School and a complete list of classes is available here.

This colorful short video explores Vesterheim’s history and all we have to offer.