Posts Tagged ‘Norsk Museum’

Last Friday night my wife and I were thinking of a few things to do for the following day. It had been a while since we took a road trip and because not much has been happening this summer regarding Norwegian gatherings, we decided to take a little trip to Norway. So we packed up our day bags and hopped into the car for our adventure.

Living in the Chicago area we can get to Norway or Stavanger in a couple of hours, not because we have super sonic direct flights out of O’Hare, but because Norway and Stavanger are small towns Southwest of Chicago near Ottawa Illinois. Neither place is very big but Norway does have a few interesting places to visit regarding our Norwegian Heritage.

Cleng Peerson "Sloopers" Memorial

Cleng Peerson (Sloopers) Memorial

The Norway area of Illinois became the first permanent Norwegian settlement in North America. These settlers were part of the Cleng Peerson led “Sloopers” that left Stavanger Norway on July 4, 1825 and arrived in New York on October 19th 1825. The settlers stayed for several years in Orleans County (near Rochester) in New York state before moving to the Norway area (in the Fox River valley) in 1834. Several monuments have been erected on a site south of town along highway 71. The site also includes the final resting place of Cleng Peerson’s sister Kari Nelson and others from that group.

Norsk Museum in Norway Illinois

Norsk Museum in Norway Illinois

If you go to Norway, Illinois in the summer months (June thru September) on a Saturday or Sunday (normally 1 to 5 pm) a very nice museum staffed by volunteers may be open. If you get there early check out the diner and store, we had a nice lunch and bought a few Norwegian food items there. The Norsk Museum (in the church behind the diner and store) contains artifacts from many of the families that have lived in the area around Norway. The artifacts include many pictures, dishes, clothes, painted trunks, spinning wheels and other household items and tools used on the farms in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I found myself walking around the museum pointing to things in the glass cases saying to my wife, “my grandparents had one of those” or “I remember seeing that at Tante Solvieg’s house.”

Our guides Barb and Joannie from the Cleng Peerson Sons of Norway Lodge, were decked out in their bunads and gave us a nice tour of the museum. They also baked up some lingonberry cake and a little “Norwegian” coffee. On exhibit are examples of Norwegian Rosemaling from the Illinois Norsk Rosemalers Association, as well as some prized examples of the work of Sigmund Årseth.

Norsk Museum Inside

Norsk Museum Inside

Barb and I talked a lot about how we wished that more would be done in our area regarding Norwegian language learning, culture and the preservation of our heritage. The collective knowledge about life in a Norwegian/American household must be preserved before it is lost. This museum along with Vesterheim and other private museums are a good start. We are both looking forward to another season of events at our local clubs and lodges and hope that many of you reading this article have additional items of interest to share with our Norwegian community. Our trip and visit to Norway ended with a smiling “ha det” and a wave as we got back into our car for the quick drive home.

Ken Nordan
Contributing Editor

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