Just as Norwegian immigration to America began to peak in 1877, Norwegian Americans began collecting and preserving objects at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, documenting their chapter of the immigrant story, and making them pioneers in the preservation of cultural diversity in America.
That early collection has grown into one of the most comprehensive museums in the United States dedicated to a single immigrant group. Today, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum houses over 24,000 artifacts, which include large samplings from the fine, decorative, and folk arts, and the tools and machinery of early agriculture, lumbering, and other immigrant industries. Of those 24,000 objects, only fifteen to twenty percent is on display in either the museum’s Main Building or the Open Air Division. The rest of the collection is stored in one of six storage facilities.