Barneblad: Make your own Norwegian heritage museum

A monthly feature to share with kids and grandkids

Brought to you by Lori Ann Reinhall

Norwegian heritage museum

Photo: public domain
If your family doesn’t own a Norwegian folk costume, you can download a photo from the internet—it will be a great conversation piece.

The days are getting longer, but temperatures can remain chilly, limiting outdoor playtime. As we wait for spring’s arrival just around the corner, here’s a fun indoor project to pass the hours: make your own Norwegian heritage museum!

By definition, a museum is a place where a number of interesting and valuable objects are kept, studied, and put on display. Often the pieces tell a story from the past or share something from another culture or place. There are art museums, museums of history and industry, car museums, toy museums—the list of themes is endless. And then, of course, there are heritage museums.

When we talk about heritage, we think about the traditions and ways of life passed down from one generation to another. Think about how your grandparents and great-grandparents once lived.

Norwegian heritage museum

Photo: Roede / Wikimedia Commons
A vintage krumkake iron that has been handed down makes an interesting item to share at your own Norwegian heritage museum.

With the theme of “Norwegian heritage,” you can start right at home to gather the items for your museum. The first step is to take inventory. Make a list of all the Norwegian things in your house. They might include a bowl painted with rosemaling, a krumkake iron, an old wooden spoon, a recipe book, a troll statue, a woven runner, a Norwegian sweater or a pair of Selbu mittens, a glass figurine, a souvenir Viking helmet, a doll or a toy, a silver brooch, a flag, even a postcard or calendar.

You may find more Norwegian things than you had imagined. Select the ones that are the most interesting, items that have a story to tell. Ask your parents or grandparents about their history: where they came from, how old they are, what they were used for, and what exactly they are called. You will need this information to write a label for each item. It doesn’t matter if the item isn’t very old. For example, your krumkake iron may be new, but you can explain that it is used to make a type of cookie that is over 1,000 years old: that is an amazing tradition!

When it is time to write a description, include the item name, place of origin, date of origin (if known), and the purpose of the item. For my own krumkake iron, the description would read like the card to the right.

You can print your descriptions out on white note cards or cardstock paper. Make sure you check your spelling and grammar to make your museum as professional as possible. Another fun idea is to provide the Norwegian name for each object. There may be someone in your family who speaks Norwegian, or if you have questions, reach out to me at The Norwegian American:—I would love hear from you!

Norwegian heritage museum

Photo: Anne-Lise Reinsfelt / Norsk Folkemuseum
Many Norwegian American families own a prized piece of silver to put out on display.

Next, you will have to select a place to put your items on display. A table will work just fine, but make sure everything is wiped off and clean. You may even want to put on a white or dark-colored tablecloth to make the display stand out better. You can even cover old shoeboxes with wrapping paper to create risers. Carefully arrange the items with their labels so that they are easy to see and read.

Now that your museum is ready, it’s time to share it with your family and friends. Why not invite them to an opening to roll out your special project? It’s a wonderful excuse to have a party, and with your theme of Norwegian heritage, a great time to share some Norwegian refreshments: why not bake some of those delicious krumkake cookies with an adult? You can find the best Norwegian cookie and cake recipes in the Taste of Norway section on our website:

Remember that even a half dozen things will make a good start to your collection. You can have fun checking out flea markets and second-hand stores with a family member or you can even make your own museum pieces: draw and color a flag, make a map, color a rosemaling pattern, make a heart-shaped ornament, or find images with Norwegian boys and girls in traditional costumes on the internet and print them out (photographs and pictures work just great). With time, your collection is sure to grow as you explore your own Norwegian heritage.

This article originally appeared in the March 8, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.