A Final Reflection

Today is my last day as Gammelgården’s intern. The last three months have certainly been eventful ones, so here are some final reflections.

Probably my favorite part of this internship has been giving tours, since I’m a HUGE history buff. Lynne Moratzka has taught me so much about Swedish immigrant history, especially Scandia’s history. I truly learn something new every day, which has led to an enhanced understanding of the United States’, Minnesota’s, and Scandia’s histories. This job has truly enriched my love of history, and has actually made me decide to minor in History! It has also made me want to visit other historic sites in Minnesota, so I have a list that I will slowly work through. This job has reignited my love of history, which I am very grateful for.

Something else that I have found to be extraordinary about this museum is the vast amounts of different people who have visited. I’ve had people visit from Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, India, South Carolina, New Mexico, Texas, California, and so many other places! It is always so interesting to hear their stories, especially about how their families came to America. However, I think my favorite visitors are the ones who say they have lived in the Scandia area for decades, sometimes even their whole lives, and have never visited Gammelgården. I love the moment when they walk into the museum, eyes wide and mouth open in awe, realizing they have finally found this hidden gem in Scandia.

Overall, this museum has shown me the value of preserving history, as we are now able to understand how other lived long ago. It has made me love history even more. Gammelgården has also introduced me to so many different people and their stories, which has made me more open-minded and knowledgeable. I am so grateful for the experiences Gammelgården has given me!

Malala Yousafzai- Learning a New Immigrant Perspective

“Our house feels big and empty. It sits behind an electric iron gate and it sometimes seems as if we are in what we in Pakistan call a sub-jail, a kind of luxury house arrest. At the back there is a large garden with lots of trees and a green lawn for me and my brothers to play cricket on. But there are no rooftops to play on, no children fighting with kites in the streets, no neighbors coming in to borrow a plate of rice or for us to ask for three tomatoes. We are just a wall’s distance from the next house, but it feels like miles away… I know my mother is lonely. She was very sociable—all the women of the neighborhood used to gather in the afternoons on our back porch, and women who worked in other houses came to rest. Now she is always on the phone to everyone back home. It’s hard for her here as she does not speak any English. Our house has all of these facilities, but when she arrived they were all mysteries to her and someone had to show us how to use the oven, washing machine, and the TV.” (I Am Malala, 303-305)

I recently had the opportunity to see Malala Yousafzai speak at the Target Center. She is one of my biggest heroes (I even used a quote of hers for my senior quote) so I was so excited to hear her speak. Her story and accomplishments are absolutely incredible, and the fact that she is only a few months younger than me is astounding. Her words and wisdom gave me chills. To even be in the same room as her, let alone hear her speak, was truly an honor and an experience I’ll never forget.

Anyways, last week I read I Am Malala, her autobiography, to prepare for her event so I would have a deeper knowledge about her story and background. The exert above, taken from the Epilogue, really stuck out to me. Malala lived in Pakistan for the first fifteen years of her life, and after she was shot by the Taliban she was transported to Birmingham, England for better care. She still lives there today, as it is unsafe to return to Pakistan because of the stances she has taken in favor of girls getting an education. This passage stuck out to me because my job is telling the Swedish immigrant story, as well as the immigrant story in general. Most Swedes came to America voluntarily, as they were searching for a better and more successful life. Malala’s story really shocked me because I was finally reading a first-hand account of an immigrant who did not want to leave her country. She loved Pakistan but she had to leave for her safety and for better medical care. At the event, as well as in her book, she stressed that she longs to return to Pakistan. She still skypes her friends there to stay up-to-date with what is going on in their lives. She said her ultimate goal is to return home one day and become a politician. It was really shocking to hear an immigrant account that counters the stories I tell of people finding hope in their immigration.

I was discussing this with Lynne Moratzka, and she pointed out that not all immigrants who came to America came voluntarily either. She pointed out that African Americans did not choose to immigrate over; they were forced to. While I had learned this in history class, I feel like I didn’t truly understand this concept until I read Malala’s book. I feel like Malala’s perspective on her immigration can also be applied to many other immigrants, especially those today who are coming from areas of war, for example immigrants from Syria. They often do not chose to come here, they are forced out due to war and violence. A big part of my job is discussing why immigrants wanted to come to the United States for a better life, but reading Malala’s book and hearing her speech has made me realize that this is not always the case, which is making me more open-minded towards other people’s immigration experiences.

Something else that I noticed from this passage relates to the universal experiences immigrants have, which is something we discuss during tours. We try and make our tours about the immigrant experience in general, but with a Swedish twist. Some of the universal experiences we discuss are not knowing the language, having your children adapt to the culture more quickly than you, and trying to decide which aspects of your culture to keep and which aspects to let go of as you adapt to living in a new country. The Epilogue of Malala’s book about her experiences in Birmingham really attests to these universal experiences. She talks about her mom not knowing the language and feeling lonely, especially since they used to have neighbors and family at their house all the time in Pakistan. She discusses how her brothers love playing with their Xbox and other video game consoles, as they quickly adapt to the culture of the new country they are in, whereas her mother struggles to adapt. They miss the atmosphere and the culture of their home in Pakistan as they are forced to acclimate to this new place and lifestyle. I feel like reading Malala’s story attests to these universal experiences immigrants have, which has made me more knowledgeable about the topic.

Overall, Malala’s story has made me so much more open-minded about immigrant experiences. I have learned that people immigrate for so many different reasons. I have also gained a deeper understanding about universal immigrant experiences, as I have now been able to apply them to immigrants from Europe and the Middle East. I feel like I have grown as a person, as I am more understanding towards different immigration experiences and stories.

The Aftermath of the Storm

A few days ago, a series of storms blew through the metro area, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power, including my family. For the past 40 hours my house has been without power, although while I was writing this blog post it came back on! I’ve been really surprised and shocked with my realization about how dependent we are on electricity. I couldn’t make toast in the morning, use the oven or stove, blow dry my hair, wash clothes, use the refrigerator, and many other things that we take for granted. I feel like my experience in the past day and a half has given me a deeper appreciation for immigrants. We have it so easy in today’s world, while immigrants had really tough lives. Every day was filled with working hard in order to survive. They were basically completely self-sufficient. Meanwhile, we completely rely on electricity to perform everyday tasks. During the power outage, my family lived by candle light, kept our food cold with ice, sweated in our hot house, and cooked over a fire, which are things many immigrants also did. It has been interesting to have some similar experiences as immigrants, and it has given me a greater appreciation for how hard their lives were, as well as how hard they worked to survive. This experience has shown me the vast contrast between how easy our lives are today and how hard immigrants’ lives were.

My First Midsommer

Last Saturday was my first Midsommer! And it was quite a wonderful first Midsommer to have. All the activities and people there were overwhelming at times, but the experience was overall a positive one. It was wonderful to see people from all different walks of life come together to celebrate a Swedish tradition. There were people of many different nationalities, eager to learn about a culture different from their own. There were also many people from Sweden, which I thought was incredible since they chose to be at Gammelgarden on the biggest Swedish holiday of the year. What I liked the most from the festival was seeing many people in their traditional Swedish outfits, which signifies where in Sweden their family is from. The atmosphere of Midsommer was overall one of excitement, pride, and hospitality, which I truly admired.

Something that was very difficult to deal with on Saturday was the oppressive heat, especially since I spent about seven hours outside setting up, tearing down, and enjoying the festivities. The actual temperature reached the mid-nineties, but with humidity it felt like at least one hundred degrees. I feel like the difficulty surrounding the heat taught me a certain level of perseverance. I knew that my help was needed throughout the festival, so I toughened up, drank some water, and continued my work throughout the day even though it was miserably hot. I also learned about perseverance because I played flute on Saturday. I played the song Halsa dem darhemma, which is a traditional Swedish song. I was nervous and really hot and sweaty , but I persevered which felt really good afterwards.

I also met someone really incredible. I met him as I made small talk with the various vendors who were selling their products on site. His name is Walter Grittner, and he had a table set up to sell various wood chests, pins, and magnets that he had carved. It turns out that he is 97 years old (98 in October). If that isn’t impressive in it of itself, you should have seen the pieces he had carved. They were beautiful and exquisite, and showed the talent he had as well as the hard work he had put into each piece. I actually wear one of his pins every day for my uniform (the museum’s director lent it to me), so it was amazing to meet the man who made the beautiful pin I wear every day. It was also very interesting listening to some of his stories. He mentioned that he served in WWII, and he talked about how he’s seen knowledge and interest about woodworking slowly disappear with each generation, which he felt was a tragedy. The knowledge and wisdom that Walter had was entrancing, and it was truly a joyful experience talking with him.

Something else that I’ve found to be interesting and funny is that I have family friends currently visiting Norway and Sweden. They were actually in Stockholm on Saturday. In a Facebook post, they mentioned that while the touristy areas of Stockholm were busy, most Swedes were out in the countryside celebrating Midsommer. Of course, since I’ve done research about Midsommer, I knew this would be the case. It was intriguing seeing them have real life experiences that reflect my knowledge based on research I’ve done.

Overall, my very first Midsommer was awesome! I will certainly return in future years to celebrate again. I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to immerse myself in a culture different than mine (I’m Norwegian), which expands my knowledge and makes me a more open-minded person.


The short parade before raising the Majstong. I got to carry the Swedish flag!


We had many vendors sell their Swedish merchandise


The Majstong before it was raised

Finding Hope

I was born in 1996. I have grown up in a period of economic disparity, war, terrorism, violence, and hatred, and my awareness of these events has always been fueled by radio, television, and social media. Even in elementary school, I remember watching the news as they covered death tolls from the war, the Great Recession, the horrors in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, the collapse of the 35W bridge, and many other scary events in this nation that had led to suffering and loss. As a political science major, I also think that I have chosen to be more aware of these issues than others. This awareness has taken its toll on me over the years, and the shooting in Orlando this weekend almost made me reach my breaking point. I was sitting in my basement last night, thinking about all of the terrible things that have happened since and before I was born, and I truly felt anxious, depressed, and defeated. I began to feel a sense of hopelessness, as it is easy to focus on bad things and bad people, and hard to focus on the good that is in the world.

I arrived at work today, and I am beginning to realize that working here and talking about the immigrant experience makes me feel better about the world, especially the United States. Part of my job is talking about the better lives immigrants were able to find in the US, as well as the hope that this country brought people suffering from similar feelings I have had lately. They came here because the US was able to provide a better life than the one they had before. These immigrants were able to find hope in the prospects that this country offered, and having a job that focuses on this hope has provided me comfort during this sad time. Right now, my heart aches, yet I am beginning to find the hope that I searched for last night through working at Gammelgården and talking about the hope that others have felt while coming here.

Chaotic Week, Content Mind

This past week has been absolutely crazy. We had three children’s field trips visit the museum, plus Saturday was Immigrant for a Day. While it was very busy, I can honestly say that I loved every minute of it. I have been working with kids since I was in seventh grade, and being able to work with kids this week really brightened my spirits and gave me a new perspective on what this museum does. All of the kids were so excited to be here and to be learning about history, even though many of them weren’t even Swedish! They said they were learning about European immigrants in their social studies classes, and to see them making real-life connections to things they learned in class was incredibly satisfying to me. I loved that we were able to supplement what they were already leaning in order to enhance their understanding of the topic of immigrants.

Something else really awesome happened during Immigrant for a Day. First of all, I was really surprised and excited to see a wide variety of immigrants come to the event. Some of them weren’t even European immigrants; they were just there to learn about similar immigration experiences of another culture. Anyways, I was in charge of one station where kids took scraps of fabric and used a loom weave them into a rug (pictured below). A family stopped by, and it was obvious by their accents that they were either recent immigrants or they were visiting from Europe. I asked where they were from and they were actually from Norway (I’m very Norwegian so this was very exciting for me). The mother told me that they live in Texas because she has an American husband, and they were visiting Minnesota and decided to stop by our event. She said that Minnesota in general, and especially the museum, reminded her of home. She said that Texas is very hot and dry, whereas the lakes, trees, and temperature of Minnesota are similar to Norway. She said she felt like Minnesota was like a home away from home. I thought that was really incredible. The fact that Minnesota, as well as Gammelgården, could remind Scandinavians of home makes me proud to live in this beautiful state and happy to work at this museum.

In conclusion, this week was hectic, but incredibly enjoyable for me. I loved having kids visit the museum and learn about Swedish immigrants’ rich history. Having kids here all week gave me new perceptions about how the museum promotes Swedish immigrant history, as we hosted kid-friendly events that offered new perspectives on the history we present here. I also loved having a wide variety of people here for Immigrant for a Day; people who came with different perspectives and experiences, but also with open minds and curiosity. I am truly grateful for these experiences this week, and I’m thankful to be working at Gammelgården this summer.  13330979_10153628070453302_7875955569813014995_n

Beautiful Weekend

What a beautiful weekend to begin working at Gammelgården! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading Swedish history literature outside when business is slow. Hopefully many people will take advantage of this beautiful weather to tour and learn more about the rich history presented here.


Välkommen Hus




Ladugård (left) and Immigrant Hus (right)


A New Beginning

Hello! My name is Sara Minder, and I am Gammelgarden’s third intern! I’m from Robbinsdale, MN, and I’m actually a member of Robbinsdale Elim Lutheran Church, so I was delighted to learn that Scandia’s church is named Elim as well. I am a student at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and I am studying political science. I am a HUGE history buff, so being an intern at Gammelgarden seemed like a wonderful and enjoyable opportunity for me. This is my first weekend as an intern, and so far what has impressed me the most about Scandia is peoples’ kindness, openness, and excitement towards me becoming part of the community. Since I’m from a city right outside Minneapolis, this is really the first time I have been part of a community of a smaller town. I’m really enjoying how friendly everyone is, and how excited they are to meet me. I’m also really impressed with this towns’ love for its history. I’ve learned more about Scandia’s history in the past few weeks than I’ve learned about Robbinsdale’s history in 19 years! There are even books written about it (for example,Scandia- Then and Now, which I have been borrowing from the Scandia Butik and reading when business is slower). I love how excited everyone is about preserving Scandia’s rich history, as well as educated others about it. I hope that I am able to make a positive impact on this community through my work as a Gammelgarden intern!

Gammelgården Museum: Preserving, Presenting, Promoting with Generous Donor Help!


Hallå Gammelgården Museum Friends,












Gammelgården Museum has been given an incredible opportunity by an anonymous donor. Thanks to this donor, $1,000.00 will be donated to the Gammelgården Current Fund WHEN 100 friends email contributions by December 31, 2014. Our museum is blessed by generosity in many ways.  This generosity keeps our mission alive:  Preserving, Presenting and Promoting Swedish Immigrant Heritage.

As a friend of Gammelgården Museum, we know you have been to and/or enjoyed the museum via our Blog or Facebook page. Please consider helping us reach this challenge goal of 100 gifts by December 31, 2014.

More information can be found here: http://www.gammelgardenmuseum.org/donate.shtm

If your contribution meets one of our membership categories, we will send you a membership card. For example, a $35.00 gift qualifies you as an individual supporter with the listed benefits. Please review the memberships listed here: http://www.gammelgardenmuseum.org/membership.shtm as you consider your e-mail friend challenge gift.

Thank you for visiting us in the past and helping meet this unique friend challenge.  Please enjoy a few pictures of our 2014 museum season: Preserving, Presenting and Promoting!

We wish you a God Jul and look forward to your next visit with us. Tack så mycket,

Kevin Nickelson, Museum Board President
Joan Detzler, Membership Chair
Lynne Blomstrand Moratzka, Museum Director