Humanities Iowa awards $5,000 to Vesterheim Museum

Humanities Iowa (HI), the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, awarded $5,000 to the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah for a program titled “Sacred Symbols, Ceremonial Cloth.” 

The grant was one of 17 totaling more than $160,000 awarded at the recent HI board meeting in Ames. 

“Sacred Symbols, Ceremonial Cloth” is a study of the meanings of many of the symbols worked into the textiles of Norwegian artisans. Some of the symbols date back to Norway’s Viking past while others were borrowed from people who traveled to Norway during migrations from other countries. Some were thought to bring good luck or good harvests while others were intended to promote fertility. 

“This exhibit is all about examining the spiritual symbols that define daily life and how those symbols are incorporated into the textiles and garments of daily life,” said Charlie Langton, the editor of publications at the Vesterheim. “Some of these specific symbols recur over and over in the weaving and clothing and embroidery.”

HI Executive Director Christopher Rossi said the exhibit is a good way to better understand the heritage of the Norwegian culture. 

“Everyday items like quilts and other textiles are significant artifacts because they show us how people lived,” Rossi said. “They also offer clues as to what our ancestors believed and what they held to be important.” 

The exhibit will be open to the public in the museum’s north gallery in the main building from Sept. 18, 2009 to Feb. 21, 2010.


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