A Facelift for Vesterheim Virtual Galleries

Exciting update! We’re enhancing the Virtual Galleries on our website with improved pictures of artifacts in the collection. Explore with sharper detail and immerse yourself in the beauty of these pieces.

Currently, photographer, Chip Peterson of Decorah, Iowa, is focusing on creating high resolution photographs of the paintings and drawings in Vesterheim’s fine art collection. The new photos will be added this year to Vesterheim’s Virtual Galleries, which feature a selection of 117 artworks from the collection. Even more artworks will be added in the fall.

These Virtual Galleries give you access to Vesterheim’s collection regardless of your location. We invite you to browse through for exploration, study, and inspiration. Share with your friends!

The photography project is made possible by a grant from the Edwin E. and Janet L. Bryant Foundation in Stoughton, Wisconsin. The Bryant Foundation has already supported the photography of folk art, such as decorative painting or rosemaling, woodworking, and Norwegian metalworking. The rosemaling and woodworking images have been added to the website and metalworking is in the works. Vesterheim’s Virtual Galleries includes 129 examples of rosemaling, 142 carved wood objects, and 60 pieces of Norwegian metalworking.  

The fine art collection at Vesterheim includes approximately 2,000 oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints. There are also sketches, sketchbooks, graphic artworks, cartoons, and sculpture in the collection.  

The museum collection began in 1877, but artwork was not considered a collecting priority until 1965, when Dr. Marion John Nelson joined the staff. Vesterheim’s fine art collection soon came into its own. Nelson, an art historian, actively collected works that represented the artistic achievements of Norwegian immigrant and Norwegian- American artists. Most pieces date from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, with the exception of works that show a conscious incorporation of Norwegian elements. Nelson was Executive Director of Vesterheim from 1965 to 1991. He was an internationally-recognized authority in Norwegian and Norwegian-American folk art and fine art and held the positions at Vesterheim and the University of Minnesota simultaneously. 

Another benefit of this project is inventorying the fine art collection. Regular inventory is a valuable part of collection management. For each artwork photographed, we check their condition and give them a light dusting. We also make sure they are safely and securely stored in their proper storage locations. Then we update the object records in the collection database. Inventories are important because they help us identify and resolve any problems with our objects. These high-quality images can also be used in Vesterheim magazine and shared with researchers. 

Explore the Virtual Galleries!