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Lizette Gradén & Tom O'Dell, University of Washington/Lund University

What Happens to Nordic Heritage When you Drop the “Heritage”?

- Contestations of Nordic Identity in Conjunction with the Development of the “New Nordic Museum” in Seattle

  • Tom O'Dell: Professor of Ethnology, Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University.
  • Lizette Gradén: Fil dr in Ethnology, Researcher and docent Lund University in Ethnology
    Curator, The Royal Armory, Skokloster Castle and Hallwyl Museum. Affiliated Associate Professor, Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington, Seattle

Abstract: Seattle is currently the fastest growing city in the United States attracting a large pool of young international professionals – many of whom are working in the IT industry. However, Seattle is also home to a large Nordic community, immigrants once attracted by the agricultural, forestry, and fishing industries. At present however, the city is pulling in a highly educated young Nordic population to its IT industries. In the midst of all of this, the Nordic Heritage Museum is trying to adapt to new times as well as a new cultural and economic context.

In August of 2016 the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle celebrated the ground breaking for a new museum facility, scheduled to open in 2018. On the fence separating the general public from the demolition and constructions teams hung a large poster promoting the coming of “The New Nordic Museum”. Conspicuously missing was the word “heritage” which had since the museum’s founding in 1980 been an integrated aspect of its name and identity. This paper investigates new and old meanings attached to the word “heritage” as interpreted by different groups in the local community. Why does the word heritage come into contestation when museums like “The Nordic” reinvent themselves? What is the role of heritage when the museum aims to engage new cosmopolitan communities in a global economy? How do notions of contemporary Nordic culture (that are at play in the global ecumene) challenge and create new interpretations of Nordic Heritage?

Theme: Scandinavia in the Eyes of the World

Earlier Event: June 16
Later Event: June 17
Panel 6: "Travel Writing"