Seattle’s Nordic heritage? It runs deep. And, it’s undergoing a renaissance thanks in large part to the new Nordic Museum, located in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.
Sleek, contemporary, and inspiring, this museum manages to walk the tightrope of time. In one glance, it brings the artists and current trends of the Nordic countries right before the visitor’s eyes and in another moment, it artfully looks back and shows the visitor where today’s trends are rooted and from which they came.
Formerly called the Nordic Heritage Museum and until this year, located in a turn of the century school building, the new 57,000 square foot museum is a giant leap forward and one that required a multimillion-dollar capital campaign in order to bring to fruition.
Although it opened last May, I hadn’t had a chance to visit until this morning. It’s Julefest weekend at the museum and I knew this would be a great chance to celebrate the season and to see the new digs…for an admission fee of only $7. I purchased my tickets online last night and arrived early at the museum only to find that a line had already formed a half an hour before the 10 AM open!
A Nordic Christmas Celebration, Julefest brings together artisans, purveyors, musicians, and bakers all of whom share a common Nordic legacy in one way or another. When I attended Julefest at the old school house location last year, the event was lovely but crowded and cramped. This year? It was a complete shift.
With the museum’s spacious interior, massive windows, and abundant light, Julefest was lively, upbeat and impressive. My first stop was to peruse the “Goodies2Go” section, which is basically the Scandinavian bake sale featuring Christmas classics such as spritz cookies, rosettes, and krumkake. I bypassed those for caloric reasons (!) and moved on to the purveyors where I found tables heavily laden with vintage Royal Copenhagen Christmas plates, Norwegian sweaters, long burning locally made beeswax candles, handcrafted wooden tools and more.
Next on my list was to do a quick perusal of the permanent collection, located up a sleek staircase. A sharp contrast to the permanent collection at the old museum, which was educational but dated, these galleries were bright, fresh, educational and informative while at the same time displaying many items that ran the gamut from contemporary to historic. There were many nods to the community’s fishing legacy here in the Pacific Northwest, and I really enjoyed seeing some of the vintage items, such as old canned salmon labels and tools of the seafood trade.
Next up? The gift shop which was very sleek and even fashionable might I say. A case of contemporary jewelry and items is right there at the entrance, while books, Norwegian sweaters, and Royal Copenhagen caught my eye.
Nearly last on the list? I had to check out the museum cafe, Freya, which has a lovely sleek fireplace at the entrance and features updated Nordic specialties such a smorrebrod, Danish dogs, and even personal smorgasbords!
Before leaving, the last thing on the list was a gift to me. No, it wasn’t Royal Copenhagen or a new sweater. It was a new cookbook and an individual membership to the museum. I intend to visit often.