Seattle's National Nordic Museum
The Ballard museum got itself a national designation
By Sarah Anne Lloyd@sarahannelloyd Mar 15, 2019 Curbed Seattle
Last May, the 40-year-old Nordic Heritage Museum finally got a home built especially for it by architecture firm Mithun—and soon after, United States Senator Maria Cantwell, who represents Seattle, introduced legislation to give the museum national designation. That bill was signed into law this week, giving the Seattle institution a new official title: the National Nordic Museum.
The museum was founded in a Ballard schoolhouse in 1980 and has been a mainstay of the neighborhood, which was built by Nordic immigrants. Last year, it moved into its new facility, with 57,000 square feet designed especially around its mission, which the bill nods to as justification for the national designation for “making Nordic history, culture, and art even more engaging and accessible to the public.”
“The Nordic Museum is organized around a linear ‘fjord’ that weaves together stories of homeland and the Nordic American experience,” said architect Rich Franko and Mithun in a museum design description provided to Curbed Seattle. “Bridges crossing the fjord intensify the experience of migration, connecting Nordic and Nordic American exhibits.”
The finishes are also inspired by the Nordic landscape, said Franko and Mithun’s description. “Fjord walls are composed of faceted white planes, evoking its glacial origins.”
According to the bill text, the museum is “a unique and valuable resource” and the only museum exclusively celebrating Nordic culture in the country.
“The Nordic Museum is a capstone of a long story about Nordic heritage in Seattle,” Senator Cantwell said in a statement when the bill first passed the Senate last month, adding that the designation would help local tourism and economic development.
“National designation will strengthen our ability to generate support from the private sector and Nordic institutions to advance our mission of promoting the Nordic values of openness, social justice, innovation, and respect for nature,” Eric Nelson, CEO of the Nordic Museum, said in a statement. “And it will certainly stimulate economic and cultural bonds between the Nordic region and Washington State, and indeed the entire country,”
The museum isn’t the only shout Washington State got with the bill’s passage. More broadly, it reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund and boosts many public lands around Washington State, including protecting the Methow Valley watershed and designating the Mountains to Sound Greenway as a National Heritage Area.