Nordic American Voices: An Oral History Initiative

Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Pacific Lutheran University.

Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Pacific Lutheran University.

“Historians have finally recognized that the everyday memories of everyday people, not just the rich and famous, have historical importance. If we do not collect and preserve those memories, those stories, then one day they will disappear forever.” –Judith Moyer, Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History

April 9 2009 —(Seattle) The Nordic Heritage Museum announces the launch of a new and ambitious effort to record the life histories of Nordic immigrants and their descendants in the Pacific Northwest. The Nordic American Voices project will be a multi-year effort to collect, preserve, and share history “from the ground up.” Eric Nelson, the Museum’s Executive Director, invites broad community participation in this initiative.

A fifteen-member Steering Committee chaired by Gordon Strand will guide the project, with the professional guidance of the Museum’s Chief Curator Janet Rauscher. The steering committee is composed of representatives from each of the five major Nordic immigrant groups. Volunteer interviewers will play a crucial role in the project’s success.


Nordic American Voices builds upon the expertise gained in the 1999–2000 Vanishing Generation Project, when 123 interviews were recorded by more than 40 volunteers. In 2001 the Museum, together with project partners the Ballard Historical Society and the Swedish Finn Historical Society, published a 289-page book. Voices of Ballard: Immigrant Stories from the Vanishing Generation contains narrative renditions of over 100 interview transcripts. The first edition sold out quickly and is currently out of print. One early goal of the Nordic American Voices project is to publish a new, expanded edition of the popular book in the fall of 2009.


The scope of Nordic American Voices will reach beyond Ballard, capturing the life stories of individuals throughout the region, from the farming communities of Snohomish and Skagit Counties to Scandinavian settlements in Eastern Washington. These interviews will inform future publications as well as exhibitions in the Museum’s current facility and in the new building planned for Market Street in Ballard.


Another special focus of the project will be to identify and interview individuals living in the Pacific Northwest who can share their memories and experiences of the Nordic countries during World War II, the occupation and the resistance movements, and the Winter War and Continuation War in Finland. These stories will be featured in a range of projects, from educational websites to exhibitions, and will be available to historians and to other Nordic cultural organizations.


The Nordic American Voices project will thrive with the assistance of many volunteers. A training session for those who wish to commit to the project as volunteer interviewers is planned for Saturday, May 2, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Individuals interested in participating in this exciting project can contact Janet Rauscher at or 206-789-5707, ext. 35.

The Nordic American Voices Steering Committee also seeks the community’s assistance in identifying interview participants. Please consider nominating individuals by completing the brief questionnaire available online at or at the Museum.

The Norwegian American

Published since May 17, 1889 PO Box 30863 Seattle WA 98113 Tel: (206) 784-4617 • Email:

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