Exploring the history of Norway

Historical associations collaborate to offer learning adventure


Photo: Martin Håndlykken / Visitnorway.com
A highlight of NAHA’s trip to Norway next summer will be a stop in Bergen. Pictured here is Bryggen, the historic German Wharf, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Amy Boxrud
Norwegian-American Historical Association

History lovers will have two opportunities to learn and explore in Norway this June. The Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA) will offer “Artistry and Industry of Norway,” a week-long tour in Norway in conjunction with the triennial seminar of its Norwegian sister organization, Det norsk-amerikanske historielaget in Norge, also known as NAHA-Norge. 

NAHA-Norge has chosen the Norwegian Emigrant Museum near Hamar as the site of its 14th triennial seminar, with the theme “Nordic Identity Formation in a Transnational Context.” 

The seminar, slated for June 17–20, provides an opportunity for participants to enjoy the company of scholars and history lovers from both sides of the Atlantic while learning about the ties between Nordic emigrants and their countries of origin and how these contacts affected the identity of Nordic-Americans.

“NAHA-Norway chose the emigrant museum for its 2020 seminar because we work closely with this museum. As a relatively small, nationwide association, it is important for us to build good relationships, contacts, and networks with others who are interested in Norwegian immigration history,” says NAHA-Norge Chair Nils Olav Østrem. 


Photo: Cynthia Elyce Rubin
On the Norwegian Emigrant Museum’s grounds stand the Leet-Christopher schoolhouse and the Emigrant Memorial Church, originally Oak Ridge Lutheran, built in 1896 near Houston, Minn.

The sessions will be held in historic buildings on the museum grounds. Terje Joranger, director of the emigrant museum, hopes the use of the museum’s historic structures will give the seminar a unique and historic atmosphere. These buildings include the Emigrant Memorial Church, originally Oak Ridge Lutheran Church, built in 1896 near Houston, Minn., and shipped to Norway in the 1990s. Another example is the Leet-Christopher schoolhouse, built in 1882 in Letcher, S.D., and rebuilt at the museum in 2015.  

The seminar’s keynote speakers are NAHA Editor Anna M. Peterson, assistant professor of history at Luther College, and Jørn Brøndal, professor of American history at the Center for American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.   

In addition to sessions at the museum, there will be group excursions in the Hamar area and a closing banquet at the historic Atlungstad aquavit distillery, located a few miles away from the museum. 

The organizers encourage Americans to consider attending the seminar, regardless of their Norwegian-language skills. “NAHA-Norway’s seminar will be worthwhile for everyone, since the vast majority of presentations and submissions will be held in English,” says Østrem.  

Prospective speakers are invited to submit a half-page proposal and a one-page CV to Østrem (nils.o.ostrem@uis.no) by January 1, 2020. More details on the seminar will be finalized shortly after this deadline and will be available on the organization’s website, nahanorge.wordpress.com.  

Photo: Hadeland Glassverk – Visitnorway.com
The week-long itinerary includes a stop at the famous Hadeland Glassworks, where participants will witness artisans in action.

Following the seminar, NAHA will offer “Artistry and Industry of Norway,” a tour blending cultural, industrial, and agricultural history by visiting glassworks, mines, artist studios and galleries, farms, factories, and more. Guided by NAHA Editor Anna Peterson and led by Amy Boxrud, executive director of NAHA, the tour will weave its way by bus from Oslo to Bergen via the spectacular Telemark and Hardanger regions.

Peterson encourages even those who have been to southern Norway before to consider this tour. “Our focus on artistry and industry will present some of the breathtaking and dramatic sites of Norway’s past and present in a new way,” she says. The week-long itinerary includes stops at Hadeland Glassworks, Oleana knitwear factory, and fish and fruit farms in the Hardanger region. 

“We will also have extraordinary opportunities to explore the heart of Norway: Telemark, including travel on the canal; a visit to the site of the infamous Vemork heavy water plant featured in the Heroes of Telemark movie; and a stay at the Dalen Hotel, which is straight out of a fairy tale,” says Peterson. 

Photo: Eirik Solheim – creativecommons.org by-sa 2.0
Also on the itinerary is a stay at the ornate Dalen Hotel in Telemark, which, as Luther College history professor Anna M. Peterson puts it, is “straight from a fairytale.”

The tour ends in Bergen, where the group will travel by funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen and explore the KODE 3 museum, which houses more than 100 works by Edvard Munch as well as other icons from the golden age of Norwegian art.  

“I can’t wait to explore these connections and experience a new perspective on Norway through the tour’s theme,” says Peterson. 

The week-long tour, planned in cooperation with Borton Overseas travel agency of Minneapolis, is designed to combine well with the NAHA-Norge seminar, since both can be completed within a span of two weeks, including travel time. International flights are not included in the tour fees. Participants have the flexibility to extend their travels in Norway or elsewhere in the Nordic region and beyond. 

Links to more information for both the seminar and the tour, including a detailed itinerary and costs, are available on the NAHA website, naha.stolaf.edu. Space is limited on the NAHA tour, so whether reserving a spot for yourself or as a gift for a loved one, contact Nicole Anderson at Borton Overseas, nicole@bortonoverseas.com, (800) 843-0602. 

The Norwegian-American Historical Association is a non-profit, member-supported organization dedicated to locating, collecting, preserving, and interpreting the Norwegian-American experience. Housed in Rølvaag Memorial Library at St. Olaf College, the organization is home to the largest collection of Norwegian-American manuscripts in North America, and has produced more than 100 scholarly publications throughout its more than 90-year history. Holiday gift memberships are available through Dec. 17 and include a subscription to the scholarly journal and quarterly newsletter, as well as a NAHA mug or tote bag. 

For more information, visit naha.stolaf.edu or contact the staff at (507) 786-3221 or email  naha@stolaf.edu.

This article originally appeared in the November 15, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.