With 16 historic buildings and over 24,000 artifacts, Vesterheim is the most comprehensive museum in the United States dedicated to a single immigrant group.
Inside the main museum building are entire log homes to explore. Filled with intricate textiles, brightly painted furniture and wooden housewares they are a great way to introduce visitors of any age to the Norwegian culture. Also in the main building is the Westby Ship Gallery. The 25-foot sailboat named Tradewind, the smallest sailboat ever known to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean without assistance, reaches up to the gallery ceiling—a memorial to the brave Hamran brothers and an icon for the Norwegian navigation prowess.
Follow the exhibits to learn why Norwegians left their homeland, what they packed to bring to America and how they integrated their skills and craft into the cultural fabric of a new land. Tools and machinery used by early pioneer settlers are on display, as well as many examples of fine, decorative, and folk art. The rich colors of Norwegian rosemaling and the ornately carved furniture are a visual delight, whether you are knowledgeable about the crafts or are seeing them for the very first time.
This museum not only gives visitors a chance to learn about the hardships, traditions and artistic talents of Norwegian immigrants, it provides a tangible landscape for the imagination. Make sure to visit both the Main Building on Water Street and the Open Air Division on the block behind—a cluster of historic structures, including a log parochial school, a blacksmith shop, several pioneer houses and a restored stone mill.
Vesterheim prides itself on preserving living traditions by offering classes in Norwegian fiber arts, cooking, metalworking, rosemaling, music and woodworking. To learn more about these classes, the museum's collection, temporary exhibits, the current lecture series or special events visit vesterheim.org.