It is widely believed that all Scandinavian
immigrants to the United States were farmers. This is a myth. The
Scandinavian population in New York City initially was urban or became
urban. Their history and contributions were different from the Midwest
population. If you look at books written about Scandinavian immigration
to the United States, the focus is on the Midwest with maybe a few
pages allotted to the New York community.
The Scandinavians who settled in the
New York City area have a history, just as rich as the Midwest. They
were involved in the labor movement, WWII, the development of New
York as the worlds premier harbor, and also in establishing
many social institutions, which still exist.
Yet, as A.N.Rygg, former owner/editor
of the Norway Times, stated, "No adequate history of the activities
of our people (Scandinavians ) in New York has been written and made
available to the public. The contributions to the community, made
by the Scandinavian element in New York, have been hidden under a
bushel, because of lack of records, statistics and definite information
concerning our life activities." The establishment of The Scandinavian
East Coast Museum, formerly the Norwegian American Collection in
Brooklyn, in December 1996, has ended this void.
Many people remember
the days when Trinity Lutheran Church on 46th St. and 4th Ave.in
Brooklyn had 1,000 children in their Sunday School. Many people regret
the loss of Eighth Avenue as the main Norwegian thoroughfare, known
as "Lapskaus Boulevard", which thronged with Norwegian
stores and restaurants. A Scandinavian community has existed in the
Sunset Park, Bay Ridge and Dyker Park communities for over 300 years.
The Norwegians physically and spiritually built these communities
and built them to last.
There is another reason
to be proud. The small country of Norway (4.5 million people) gave
more of its population to the United States per capita, than any
other country except Ireland. The Norwegians created a local community
with churches, a hospital, senior housing, businesses, sports clubs
and social clubs. These institutions and organizations have been
in existence for over 100 years . They are no longer comprised of
only Scandinavians but have broadened their base to include new immigrant
groups and neighbors. It is time this vital ethnic group, who settled
on the East Coast, get the recognition they deserve. That recognition
is now a reality with the creation of S.E.C.M.
In 1993, Victoria
Hofmo applied for a grant from the Norwegian Emigrant Fund to work
at the Utvandremuseum in Hamar in order to get ideas about how
to begin establishing a museum in New York. In 1994, an exhibit
called " Det Norske Amerika in New York and the Contributions
It Made ",was held at the Norwegian Seamens Church.
As a result of the exhibit, people began forwarding artifacts to
Ms. Hofmo. She then knew that not only was a museum desired but
that it would be significant.
The Scandinavian East Coast Museum ( formerly the Norwegian-American
Collection) was incorporated in 1996. Our vision statement can be
found on our Home Page. We have received grants from The Norwegian
Emigration Fund, The Norwegian Consulate and two from The New York
State Archives Documentary Heritage Program.
- Our meetings are held bi-monthly and we publish a quarterly newsletter.
- Annually, we sponsor a Scandinavian Celebration along the Brooklyn
waterfront, a Scandinavian Culture Day at the Norwegian Christian Home
and Health Center and educational programs in local libraries.
- We represent
the Scandinavian Community in many historical and governmental organizations.
- We participate in local history fairs.
- We have a web site.
We also have begun a Building Fund Campaign to create a permanent
Scandinavian Museum that will document and celebrate those Scandinavians
who settled along the East Coast of the United States.The Scandinavians
have been in Brooklyn for almost 400 years. It is time their contributions
and stories are properly recognized in a museum. If you'd like to
become a part of our organization, go to the "contact us" page
for our address. Send a check for $12. and you will become a member,
receive our newsletters and be kept informed of local Scandinavian
news and events.