Browse Our Exhibits

This video is a 360° view of the interior of the Norwegian House, on the first floor of the Museum Building. When watching a 360° video on a computer, the viewing angle is changed by clicking on the video and dragging with the mouse. Enjoy the virtual tour!

Museum Building

Step inside Vesterheim’s Museum Building to discover four floors filled with stories of identity, beauty, and faith. The lives of the people who settled our nation were often as colorful as their folk art and their stories speak through the objects they left behind. You’ll find a cabin made from a single tree, elaborate costumes, intricately carved butter molds, colorful paintings, silver wedding crowns, woven tapestries, and even a boat that sailed the Atlantic Ocean.

Vesterheim’s Museum Building includes artifacts from home life in nineteenth-century Norway, a 25-foot wooden sailboat TradeWind, an immigrant log house from 1853, and thousands of examples of Norwegian and Norwegian-American materials. You will enjoy displays of folk art that range from centuries-old woodcarving to beautiful contemporary rosemaling (decorative painting). Learn about Norwegian traditions and follow the immigrant story to see how Norwegian-Americans sustained and shared their heritage in their vesterheim, their “western home.”

This video is a 360° view of the interior of the ship gallery, on the first floor of the Museum Building. When watching a 360° video on a computer, the viewing angle is changed by clicking on the video and dragging with the mouse. Enjoy the virtual tour!

This video is a 360° view of the interior of a gallery featuring wood and its decoration, on the second floor of the Museum Building. When watching a 360° video on a computer, the viewing angle is changed by clicking on the video and dragging with the mouse. Enjoy the virtual tour!

Heritage Park

Vesterheim Heritage Park on Vesterheim’s campus includes 12 historic buildings in an open-air setting. The buildings depict the story of immigration, showcasing life in Norway in the 1800s and then life for immigrants in America. The park is a forested area, interspersed with glade-like openings that act as outdoor rooms. There is a welcome patio that includes a brick outline of the Restauration, the first ship to bring Norwegian immigrants across the Atlantic. There is a timber frame meeting area for groups and Folk Art School classes, and also an outdoor stone amphitheater for performances. Carved portals mark the entrances to the park and visitors are invited to wander through time, past and present, along the pathways and plantings.

The park is open daily. Enjoy a guided tour of the museum’s Heritage Park during the summer months. (Please call ahead to confirm in case of tour change.)

Learn the history and check out the 360° views of the room interiors on each building page.

Learn more about Vesterheim’s Heritage Park with this blog post and this magazine article interview with previous Vesterheim director and curator Darrell Henning.


Heritage Park would not be possible without some exceptional partners — Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Water Quality Initiative Urban Conservation Project, the Paul D. Pratt and Marguerite Olson Pratt Fund of InFaith Community Foundation, and Kate Nelson Rattenborg. Vesterheim has also received funding from Winneshiek County Community Foundation and Humanities Iowa for interpretive signs.

Bethania Lutheran Church

Egge-Koren House

Erikson-Hansen Stabbur

Haugan House

Mikkelson-Skree Blacksmith Shop

Norris Miller Stovewood House

Norsvin Mill

Painter-Bernatz Mill

Rovang Parochial School

Tasa Drying Shed

Valdres House

Wickney House

Vesterheim Commons is open daily from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. with no admission charge. Stop by to see this stunning facility. There is often a special exhibit open in the second floor gallery.

Situated directly on Water St. in the middle of the city block adjacent to Vesterheim Heritage Park, Folk Art School, and Museum Building, Vesterheim Commons creates a dynamic entry point and gathering space for the entire museum campus.

The sustainable building stands on a mass timber frame construction made of Alaskan Yellow Cedar from Alamco Wood Products in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and is built using regionally sourced brick from Adel, Iowa, and textured concrete walls. The front is marked by a soaring wooden canopy with a shape reminiscent of traditional Norwegian boats.

Flexible upper-level galleries, including state-of-the-art digital facilities and a production studio, provide spaces where visitors can explore a rich collection of artifacts and artworks.

In addition to linking with the local environment, the materials and construction techniques draw inspiration from Norwegian culture. The concrete walls on the back of the building were inspired by Norwegian designer Erling Viksjø, the architect of the Norwegian national government building. The concrete footings evoke the stone foundations of traditional Norwegian stabbur storehouses.

The first-floor gathering room is bathed in light from above by a wood oculus that resembles Sámi tents, known as lavvu. The room features the original limestone and brick wall from the adjacent building, and the wood ceiling slats that give it such warmth are Western Red Cedar. The flexible event space and artifact study room give interior connections to the Westby-Torgerson Education Center and Museum Store.

The north view and second-floor terrace open to almost an acre of surrounding landscaped patio that extends into Vesterheim Heritage Park with its historic buildings and urban woodland, inspired by both the Driftless region of Northeastern Iowa and the wooded landscapes of Norway. The south facing three-story window is embedded with a fritting design inspired by the limestone palisades in Decorah, along with some traditional acanthus outlines.

This project is part of a comprehensive, long-range planning process with Snøhetta, the renowned international architecture and landscape architecture firm, and is supported with work of the architect of record, consultants, and construction management including BNIM; Meyer, Borgman, Johnson (MBJ); Morrissey; and McGough Construction. The facility allows Vesterheim to draw in local residents and visiting groups from around the country so that new stories can be told through multicultural experiences bridging time and place.

We welcome your visit!

Click to learn more about the Commons on Vesterheim’s blog.

View videos of the Commons in construction on Vesterheim’s YouTube Channel.

Boreal Ornament V

Exploring the Natural World – Printmaking of Olive Jensen Nordby

Hand Me Down the Fiddle

Leading with the Heart: Nordic, Sami, Ojibwe Designs From Nature

National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition

The Art and Crafts of Ancient Scandinavia

Rocks and Hard Places: Emigration Through the Lens of Knud Knudsen

Tattoo: Identity Through Ink