Years of planning and preparation were on display on Saturday, May 5 at the Nordic Heritage Museum’s grand opening in Ballard.

The museum, which shut down for five months while it moved from its former location on 30th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 67th Street in the former Webster Elementary School, opened in grand fashion with foreign dignitaries, choirs and hundreds of onlookers. The building can be found on Northwest Market Street.

Eric Nelson, chief executive officer of the museum, spoke before the media and five ambassadors from Nordic nations at a preview inside the building.

“It’s an incredible honor to be here and to open this wonderful building,” he said. 

The building’s deceptively austere appearance belies architectural details which provide a true sense of comfort and warmth – it’s about as Nordic as you can get.

Nordic is a term covering Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Faroe Islands. Many immigrants from those countries came to Seattle and in particular to Ballard, where the weather, fishing and drinking community flourish just as in their home countries.

The Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Dagfinn Høybråten, spoke on how important the museum was.

“It’s really something we are celebrating, it’s unlike anywhere else in the world,” he said. “We are celebrating a 40-year long tradition of the Nordic Heritage Museum. It’s an important day for Nordics in the U.S. and for Nordic governments as a platform of communication and an exchange of ideas.”

The ambassadors spoke about the strong connection that still exists between the Nordic countries and Seattle, citing a strong tech culture and focus on values.

“The sustainability and open society in this city show we share many of the same values,” said Lars Gert Lose, Danish ambassador to the United States. “We speak the same language here.”

Karin Olofsdotter, Swedish ambassador to the U.S., said that Europe and the United States are facing similar challenges and must work together to overcome them. Norwegian ambassador Kåre Aas thanked Ballard and Seattle at large for the community support to get the $47 million. 57,000-square foot building up and open.

The 77,000-item collection was moved down to market street, including the viking ship and the Finnish sauna built more than 100 years ago in Kirkland’s (wait for it) Finn Hill neighborhood.

The three-story building welcomes guests with stark white walls and light pine wood to really lend a sense of Nordic aesthetic. The Great Hall is an acoustic wonderment, complete with baffling and woodblock floors. It will be a great place to listen to music for years to come. 

Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark were in attendance to cut the ribbon. Members of the Royal Danish Guard and the Icelandic Male Chorus welcomed the dignitaries. Congressman Rick Larsen and Mayor Jenny Durkan were also in attendance. 

Kirsti Kauppi, ambassador from Finland, hoped the building would be more than just a museum and would further cement close ties between Europe and the United States in what has been a fractious year or two.

“This is not only about our history,” she said. “It’s about our future. We need to figure out what kind of future we want together.”