By Una Tingvik-Haave, A&E Writer

Members of the Scandinavian Cultural Center have spent the last couple of months piecing together collected documents, photographs, artifacts and literary descriptions in hopes of giving the Pacific Lutheran University community a glimpse of the Scandinavian immigrant experience in the Northwest.

Junior Malena Goerl, an assistant for University Archives, explains the significance of artifacts in the exhibit “Piecing Together the Scandinavian Immigrant Experience” in the Scandinavian Cultural Center Wednesday. Photo by Jesse Major.
Junior Malena Goerl, an assistant for University Archives, explains the significance of artifacts in the exhibit “Piecing Together the Scandinavian Immigrant Experience” in the Scandinavian Cultural Center Wednesday. Photo by Jesse Major.

The opening of the exhibition, “Piecing Together the Scandinavian Immigrant Experience,” took place Monday in the Scandinavian Cultural Center.

“It is important to recognize that we cannot tell the whole story of immigration,” Claudia Berguson, associate professor of Norwegian and Scandinavian studies, said. “We can only piece it together with the primary and secondary sources that we have.”

Berguson was one of the main organizers of this exhibition. Elisabeth Ward, the director of the Scandinavian Cultural Center, and Kerstin Ringdahl, the university archivist, worked closely with Berguson.

“We agreed that this exhibit would be a human narrative — a story of the everyday person as much as the pioneer to the Northwest,” Berguson said.

As a result, the exhibition focuses on six main parts of the immigrant experience: leaving Scandinavia, coming to Tacoma and the Northwest, church and education, immigrant women and the idea of making a new home in America, the industry of the Northwest, and becoming American.

One of the many artifacts displayed at the opening in the Scan Center was an old Scandinavian record player, which played a collection of Scandinavian folk songs.

Homesickness was a common topic in these songs, because Scandinavian immigrants often sang songs in their own language about missing their homes after coming to America.

After people had the opportunity to walk around and look at the various artifacts, they were offered Swedish meatballs and potatoes, which is a traditional Scandinavian dish.

Local community members made up the majority of those who attended the opening.

“We have a lot of people who are PLU grads who want to keep a connection to PLU, and being a member of the Scandinavian Cultural Center is a great way to do that,” Ward said.

A performance by historical actor Karen Haas, a member of the Pierce County Historical League, rounded off the opening of the exhibit.

Haas convincingly reenacted the life of Thea Foss, an early Norwegian immigrant woman. Foss came to America, worked hard and founded the successful company Thea Foss Waterway Cleanup, which is still up and running in Tacoma today.

The exhibit will be up until July 30.

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