Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum takes pride in celebrating and showcasing heritage from all Nordic countries. And after nearly four decades on display in the historic Daniel Webster Elementary School building, the museum’s collection is migrating to a new home (with a new name). The Nordic Museum, described by Seattle Mag as a “showpiece for forward-thinking Nordic design” is slated to open its doors to the public on Saturday, May 5. Celebrate the occasion and gear up for your first visit by reading about the museum’s awe-inspiring new space and rich ethnographic collections.

Architecture, design, and layout

It took a dozen years and exhaustive efforts to raise the roughly $50 million required to carry out plans for the new Nordic Museum. But construction, overseen by Mithun Architects, is complete. Most exhibits have made the move from the old schoolhouse to the new Nordic Museum. And early reception of the museum’s space suggests the wait was worth it. The 57,000-square-foot complex, distinctly Scandinavian in design, is as aesthetically appealing as it is functional. At the heart of the zinc-wrapped building is a linear “fjord,” evocative of the dramatic inlets for which Norway’s west coast is known. Jutting out from and wrapping around the fjord are a craft studio, state-of-the-art auditorium, classrooms, and two libraries. The new museum is located in downtown Ballard, a five-minute walk from AMLI Mark24.

Opening exhibitions

The Nordic Museum will open with a trio of enticing exhibitions in May. “Nordic Journeys” is a survey of the evolution, spread, and preservation of Nordic culture over the last 11,000 years. “Northern Exposure” showcases contemporary art from the five countries and three autonomous territories on the Nordic map. And “Fridtjof Nansen” delves into the productive life and fascinating adventures of the luminary Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, and humanitarian.

Permanent collection highlights

The Nordic Museum’s permanent collection contains more than 77,000 works of art, artifacts, and other physical representations of Nordic culture through the millennia. The collection’s focus is on folk customs, in particularly traditional art, music, dance, and attire. It is the only museum in the country with a permanent collection representing heritage from all eight Nordic territories: the Åland Islands, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

Nordic spirit

Nordic Heritage Museum visitors will be pleased to learn the Nordic Spirit made the move to the Nordic Museum. Built in northern Norway nearly 200 years ago, the Spirit closely resembles the classical Viking ships built 1,000 years earlier. The ship was restored to seaworthiness for a 2009 voyage, and is in excellent condition. It promises to be a highlight of the new Nordic Museum for visitors of all ages.

Freya Cafe’s Nordic cuisine

The museum’s collection pays homage to Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish heritage. Its in-house restaurant pays homage to their respective cuisines. Tastefully designed and rich in natural light, Freya Cafe is anticipated to be an attraction in its own right. Executive chef Brendan Arntz’ kitchen serves up soups, salads, open-faced sandwiches, and other Scandinavian and PNW fare. If you’re over 21 and not driving, wash down your Smörgåsbord with some acquavit. Freya Cafe will open on May 8.

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About Jason Ernst


Jason received degrees in International Studies, Economics, and German Literature from the University of Arizona in 2011, and has worked as a freelance writer ever since. His research and writing interests include interior decoration and design, home entertainment, history, art, architecture, and travel. He is currently a regular contributor to the AMLI Residential lifestyle blog. Circle Jason on Google+