Norwegian immigrants subject of new exhibit

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Byron Stadsvold is the president of the local Kristiania Chapter of the Sons of Norway which is sponsoring a display by the Sons of Norway featuring and explaining Norwegian Immigration in Minnesota from 1825-1925 that is currently on display at the Olmsted County History Center in Rochester, Minn.

"If you find farming in Norway unrewarding, I advise you to abandon everything and come to Minnesota," a Norwegian farmer wrote to relatives at home over a century ago.

Many followed his advice, and Norwegians came to Minnesota in the thousands, eventually making the state one of the main centers of Norwegian culture in the United States.

Now, that Norwegian immigrant experience is recounted in 20 posters that will be on display through Dec. 20 at the History Center of Olmsted County, 1195 West Circle Drive S.W.

"I like how they put it together in a nice timeline that showed how Minnesota became the advance of these people coming in," said Byron Stadsvold, president of the local chapter of the Sons of Norway, which is sponsoring the exhibit.

The 20 posters were prepared by the Ramsey County Historical Society in St. Paul, and are traveling around the state.


"It's very well done and very informative," said Cara Clarey, curator at the history center.

The posters use photographs, letters, maps and text to tell the story of the Norwegian immigrant experience, starting with conditions in Norway in the mid-19th century. Norwegians who came to Minnesota engaged primarily in farming, forestry and fishing, but also established several colleges (including Augsburg, Concordia and St. Olaf), developed a strong folk arts tradition, and eventually moved into publishing and politics.

The posters are complemented by items from the history center's collection, including a kubbestolen and a "dyller," used to store flatbread.

Stadsvold said he hopes the exhibit will spark interest in the Norwegian-American experience, which has had such a strong influence on Minnesota.

"I like to promote Norway and our ancestors who did a fantastic job of staying alive," he said. "They went through a lot of hardships and brought a good ending in this area."

Visitors to the exhibit are encouraged to leave comments in a notebook.

The exhibit will be at Charter House in Rochester over the Christmas holidays.

Membership in the local Sons of Norway chapter is about 300, Stadsvold said. Membership about 25 years ago would have been at least twice that amount, he said. Norwegian background is not required for membership. Anyone interested should visit or call 507-288-1409.


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