RETHINKING SCANDINAVIA – CSS Publications Web Quarterly

Issue II: Looking In, Watching Out

Published in July 2018

The Challenges of Re-Packaging a Heritage

Re-imagining Nordic culture in North America

Lizette Gradén & Tom O’Dell, Lund University

The research results presented in this paperwhich were originally presented at the CSS conference in Lund in June 2017 were made possible by support from Erik Philip-Sörensens stiftelse and Birgit & Gad Rausings stiftelse för humanistisk forskning. It relates to the ongoing project Understanding the Conditions Facing Heritage in a Hybrid Market, supported by the Swedish Heritage Board. We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has participated in interviews, informal discussions and shared their perspectives. Varmt tack to everyone who has propelled our fieldwork in Seattle by inviting us to events, homes, tours and who have supported us in various ways.

In the last decade, many museums that were established in the 20th century by immigrants from the Nordic countries have become increasingly concerned with broadening their audiences and more actively engaging their visitors. Efforts to do this have varied from offering cocktail hours, culinary conferences, and sauna sessions, to striving to appeal to people who may not identify as Nordic or do not think of museums as places they would normally visit. In part, these efforts stem from the growing expectations museums face of demonstrating the manner in which they serve a public benefit and support social values at play in society at large, but they also stem from the demands museums face of providing measurable results of annual growth to their financial stakeholders. But how does, and can, this work when it is a very particular heritage (Nordic heritage) that is under a museum’s auspices?