Tattoo: Identity Through Ink

Brock's Tattoo
This popular Vesterheim exhibition is being developed to travel.

For information about scheduling the exhibit at your venue, contact Chief Curator Laurann Gilbertson at or 563-382-9681 ext. 214.

For more than 5,000 years, tattoos have been used to document the history of humanity one painful mark at a time. Spanning cultures and continents, tattooing has adorned European nobility and Native Americans, celebrities and Scandinavian sailors, punks and presidents, and seemingly everyone else in between. Today, tattoos have never been more popular.

Tattoos are so much more than decoration. Tattoos are a powerful visual language of the skin, and, like texts, they permanently record memories, life stories, and personal achievements.

Tattoo: Identity Through Ink tells the story of tattoos and the people who have them. We’ll explore the ways individual and group identities are formed, reinforced, and celebrated through tattoos. Of course there is a Scandinavian connection–with celebrated artists like Norwegian Johan Frederik Knudsen and Norwegian-American Amund Dietzel, the question of whether or not Vikings had tattoos, and the rise of a whole modern Neo-Nordic style of tattooing. But the exhibition also allows us to explore more deeply the traditions of body ornamentation in other cultures and our connections to them.

This traveling exhibit is made possible thanks to generous support of the Vesterheim Annual Fund from Jon and Mary Hart.