Inside the Nordic Museum as opening day nears

The new Nordic Museum on Market St. is humming with activity as workers race to complete the last installations and finishing work before opening day on May 5th.

“We’ll be ready,” CEO Eric Nelson reassured the group of media gathered for an inside tour.

Workers darted between museum members who also gathered for an advance look at the 57,000 square-foot, $45 million facility on Market St.

We were standing in Fjord Hall, which looks a bit like a 3-story crevasse that winds its way down the length of the museum. High above, Faroese artist Tróndur Patursson was installing Migration, a beautiful flock of glass birds suspended on cables from the ceiling (above).

Nelson began the tour in the auditorium, which is decked out in Douglas fir and Western hemlock with seating for 374 people. The far wall opens to reveal a large HD projection screen. On the opposite side, windows slide open to an outdoor patio. It’s clear the auditorium will become Ballard’s most prized venue, a space for musical acts, fundraisers and weddings.

As we walked back into Fjord Hall, we stood at the base of a giant map of Nordic countries.

Then after climbing the stairs, we emerged into the galleries.

Fjord Hall divides the two main galleries, the northern side focuses on the Nordic Region (above) and the southern side tells the story of Nordic America.

Bridges, which are metaphors for immigration and migration, connect the two sides.

“Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve had waves of immigrants that continue to come,” explained Nelson to our group. “Most recently, we’ve had a lot of immigrants coming to work in the tech sector. Microsoft has bought Skype and Minecraft, and a number of other tech companies from Scandinavia, and with that has brought another wave of Nordic immigration.”

One of our favorite stops on the tour was this viewing area, a large screen with directional sound showing sweeping scenes of Scandinavian nature.

At the end of Fjord Hall, visitors exit to an outdoor grassy area featuring some familiar exhibits from the old Nordic Heritage Museum: the Nordic Spirit boat and the Finnish sauna.

Other than a few familiar exhibits, the new museum looks nothing like the old. Praised by Architectural Digest, the modern Mithun-designed building — with help from Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa — is a far cry from the red brick building on NW 68th St.

“We’ve gone through a slow period of professionalization during our time in the old museum getting ready for this,” Nelson said. “So we can bring along all the great things about the old museum, but also open our doors and appeal to a much broader audience.”

Nelson joked when he first visited the old museum ten years ago, the cab driver couldn’t find the building. “We’re in a far more visible spot next to the Locks right on Market St.” he said.

As the tour neared the end, we asked Nelson why it was important the museum is part of Ballard.

“It provides a cultural anchor here in Ballard,” he said. “It cements the fact that this is the historic Nordic neighborhood of Seattle, and it gives us a lasting tribute to the people who built Ballard, continue to be part of the working waterfront and the community as a whole.”

At the end of the tour, guests are funneled into the museum store (“We learned that from Disney,” jokes Nelson), which is next door to Freya Cafe along Market St.

Freya is slated to open on May 8th.

Beginning next week, the museum kicks off an aggressive schedule of events. Local leaders will gather on on Tuesday for a preview reception. The museum will host the Nordic Innovation Conference on Thursday. That same night, the Danish Crown Princess and ambassador will announce its International Cultural Initiative. On Friday, there’s a cultural community gathering followed by a grand opening gala dinner.

Then the museum opens its doors on Saturday, May 5th with a ribbon cutting ceremony at noon. All are invited to the corner of Market and 28th for the outdoor event featuring remarks by the President of Iceland and the Crown Princess of Denmark, among others. That night, a sold-out concert in the auditorium will feature Nordic and Nordic-inspired groups including Chelsea Wolfe.

If you’d like to visit the museum galleries on opening day and Sunday, you’re asked to reserve tickets in advance. At last check, Saturday is sold out but tickets are available on Sunday.

You may want to reserve some extra time when visiting on opening day. The museum has 77 parking spots in the rear, but otherwise you’ll be fending for yourself with on-street parking.

26 comments on “Inside the Nordic Museum as opening day nears”

  1. > See upcoming events in our Ballard calendar <

  2. ‘“It provides a cultural anchor here in Ballard,” he said. “It cements the fact that this is the historic Nordic neighborhood of Seattle, and it gives us a lasting tribute to the people who built Ballard, continue to be part of the working waterfront and the community as a whole.”

    Hmmm. Seems racist to me. Everywhere is supposed to be equally diverse now.

  3. I like maps, but the big one they’re displaying looks kind of ridiculous since it’s in a narrow hallway and you have to crane your neck to see it.

    was that a last minute addition, or did the ‘designers’ think it was a good idea?

  4. I don’t see any sharps containers for used needles in these pics.
    They need to be installed in the lobby immediately.

    And a “viking ship” on display? Really? Wow, just wow.
    Please don’t push your heteronormative, imperialist, eurocentric agenda on us.
    No rainbow flag stickers or a sign listing 20 prescribed beliefs one must adhere to before entering? Suspicious

  5. All ya’ll can be sarcastic, but me, I love a museum. I genuinely would love to learn Nordic historical information. If that’s cultural insensitivity, bring on the cultural insensitivity, cause I want to visit!

  6. For more information on Scandinavia, visit your local library. Well, maybe not the one in Ballard unless you want a face full of felons and junkies.

    Sad that a neighborhood built by Scandis – who are known for good taste and cleanliness – is filled with so much trash and hooligans the city has to send around clean-up trucks.

    But this I know for sure: all we need are higher taxes!

  7. So hilarious, these comments about racism. You guys are showing your clear racist agendas that have nothing to do with Scandinavia. Besides the act that there are plenty of museums in Washington dedicated to your culture, the Scandinavian culture was made up of all races, not just white. The Vikings were made up of all races and religions, traveled the world and lived together as a society for the benefit of the group. But you wouldn’t know that because you lack the education to extract you like a newborn into the reality of the real world. Keep on with your racist white people hating rhetoric, it will just empower more white people to hate you back and never fix anything. Pathetic.

  8. @Boomerang

    It is not racist to demand that every place on earth in Europe and USA be equally diverse – which we define as “less of you” – while keeping the rest of the world as it is.

    This would be obvious to you if you have spent $100k to attend the University of Washington and taken the requisite social justice courses, assuming of course, you were admitted after competing with thousands of prospective students from all over the world.

    “Keep it Local” only applies to produce and artisanal carved doodads.

  9. It looks amazing, it’s a great way to honor Ballard’s Scandinavian culture and residents with great care for detail as you can see by looking at way designers created each floor. I wish i lived nearby just to pay a visit. Congratulations

  10. If every museum were culturally diverse then we would only need one of them

  11. Could those fake trees and rocks be any more kitchy?

    There doesn’t seem to be much imagination in this building. Someone took what was (maybe?) a good idea, a fjord-like space, and totally sterilized it. Design by committee?

    The exterior though is really the bigger disappointment. Honestly, that New Seasons Market is a more attractive building in the neighborhood.

  12. to all the smart asses with stupid comments. can’t you just shut up for a moment?

  13. The museum itself is more ugly, postmodernist 80’s leftovers. Nothing says “striving nouveau riche” like a big monochromatic prison of the soul. Neat. Yes well know the architect is a fan of continental philosophy. Snore.

  14. Go to hell everybody. I hate this city and country and world and all of it’s inhabitants!!!

  15. @Terry Pratt
    The industrial warehouses, places where people actually built things, we torn down for this “industrial chic” museum that celebrates the history of Ballard? Talk about sad irony. Says a lot about Seattle 2018.

    I give it 1/5 stars for architecture but 5/5 stars as an unintentional, self parodying study in hypercapitalist, anti-regional semiotics.

  16. THIS LOOKS AWESOME!
    Something good in Ballard! Yeah!
    Fight for Ballard! Get it back!

  17. ” Scandinavian culture was made up of all races, not just white”

    Thanks for the laugh. (someone who lived in “Scandanvian countries))

  18. We visit Ballard regularly from England to visit our son who has been lucky enough to settle here.The old museum was fascinating and we can’t wait to see the new version on our visit in May.
    Quite saddened to read some of the rather peculiar previous postings.The new museum is the work of a dedicated group of citizens proud of their heritage and will be a marvellous asset to Ballard.
    The USA welcomed my son as an immigrant and we are grateful.

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