Vesterheim’s Connection To Norway

Ties between Norwegians and Norwegian Americans have always remained close, so it would be natural for Norway and its cultural institutions to maintain a close connection to Vesterheim throughout the museum’s history. Norway has been generous with its gifts of artifacts. Many folk artists have come to Vesterheim to teach traditional techniques. Norwegian organizations and artists host visits and events during Vesterheim tours to their country. Norway’s Royal Family and government officials have visited the museum many times, and His Majesty King Harald V is the museum’s Honorary Board Chair.

A significant gift of historical objects from Norwegian museums for “the Norwegian people in America” came in 1925 to mark the 100th anniversary of Norwegian emigration. The gift, which took two years to assemble, ultimately filled 23 crates when it crossed over the ocean to the United States in 1927. The coordinator of the entire project was Anders Sandvig, founder of the Maihaugen collection in Lillehammer, Norway. Sandvig expressed his purpose in organizing such an effort by writing, “May these objects work so that the Norwegian-ness in you will not die too soon, and the connection with the homeland will because of this be tighter. Receive this gift as proof that we follow you all in our hearts, even though the big Atlantic Ocean parts us.”

Royal Visits To Vesterheim And Decorah

  • May 6 and 7, 1939 Crown Prince Olav and his wife, Princess Märtha, stay in Decorah while on their first United States tour. The Crown Prince brings gifts for the Norwegian-American Historical Museum, now Vesterheim, from the National Association of Museums in Norway. This group of Norwegian museums not only contributes the artifacts, but also donates the funds to cover shipping. While the Crown Prince and Princess are in Decorah, Luther College confers upon the Crown Prince an honorary degree.
  • October 6, 1965 Crown Prince Harald, (who became King Harald V in 1991), visits Vesterheim and Luther College, where an honorary degree is conferred upon him.
  • May 4, 1968 King Olav V visits Vesterheim and Luther College.
  • October 14, 1975 King Olav V participates in dedication ceremonies at Vesterheim Museum’s newly restored Main Building and visits Luther College to lay the cornerstone for the Center for Faith and Life, the college’s worship center and theater-concert hall.
  • November 28, 1987 King Olav V braves an ice storm to visit Vesterheim Museum and Luther College.
  • October 19, 1995 Their Majesties King Harald V and Queen Sonja visit Decorah as part of their official diplomatic itinerary.
  • June 10, 1999 Crown Prince Haakon visits Decorah as part of the city’s sesquicentennial celebrations and dedicates Vesterheim’s Amdal-Odland Heritage Center. He also lays the cornerstone for Luther College’s Baker Village.
  • October 13, 2011 Their Majesties King Harald V and Queen Sonja visit Decorah on the occasion of Luther College’s sesquicentennial celebration. Queen Sonja presides at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Vesterheim’s new Asbjørnsen Gallery.