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 world’s 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 Seamen’s 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.