This original post was published by the Swedish-American publication, Nordstjernan, here.
One of the great things about living twenty minutes outside the Nation’s capital is the area’s diversity. I can think of nowhere else where people of myriad backgrounds and nationalities live and work in such close proximity. I relish the opportunity to experience new and exciting cultures and traditions. This is a place where diversity is celebrated and encouraged. So when I returned to DC after studying abroad in Sweden, I was surprised at how little a footprint Scandinavia had in this area. (This was before the opening of the House of Sweden, a beautiful building situated in the heart of Georgetown overlooking the Potomac River.) As someone who wanted to continue fostering her education about Swedish roots, I found my options in DC limited.
Two hours north, however, in downtown Philadelphia, I discovered the American Swedish Historical Museum, an organization devoted to sharing Sweden with the East Coast. Imagine my surprise, when I happened to first visit the museum, that I should find a Swedish estate house buried in the urban surroundings of one of America's oldest cities! There I was just a stone's throw away from the Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field, yet finding myself comforted by familiar Swedish architecture. The museum's facade fondly reminded me of my trips to Kalmar Castle, Gripsholm Castle and Stockholm's Royal Palace. And suddenly, it seemed as though I had been transported across the Atlantic, and I found my heart quickly aching to return to those Swedish places I so love.
Walking through the museum, I especially enjoyed the stuga room, a farm-house interior recreated to reflect the dwelling places of the earliest Swedish immigrants, the museum's collection of original paintings by Carl Larsson, and one specific portrait of King Gustaf Vasa by the artist Nils Kreuger. The oil painting portrays the back of the King's head, and the placard next to the gilded frame quotes Gustaf Vasa as saying, "Because a poor likeness was done in Uppsala, painters shall only now do the back view." The depiction and description still makes me chuckle today. Though I visited the museum on a cold, rainy day in May four years ago, I look forward to returning to the museum this summer to celebrate Midsummer on their beautiful grounds. Without a doubt, the American Swedish Historical Museum satisfied my desire to find a place where I can go when I long for a little bit of Sweden closer to home.
Read an excerpt from The Number 7 where the main character finds and explores the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia: here.