Permanent Exhibit

The Dream of America: Swedish Immigration to Chicago

dream-of-americaOur main exhibit, The Dream of America: Swedish Immigration to Chicago, is located on the second floor of the Museum. The exhibit explores the struggles and triumphs of the Swedish immigrant experience and asks the question: would you leave home today in search of a better tomorrow?

The exhibit follows Swedish immigrants from the arduous journey to the new world to building a life and community in Chicago. It examines topics such as why so many Swedes left their homeland and what they packed for their voyage, as well as careers they chose in the Chicago area and the social lives within their immigrant communities. Visitors will encounter authentic artifacts that reflect the experiences and perspectives of immigrants – from household items they brought from Sweden and travel items such as passports and steamship tickets to memorabilia from Chicago-based Swedish-American organizations and Swedish folk crafts produced in the United States and abroad.

Visitors meet many characters within the exhibit, including, Stina Olofsdotter, who is helping her son prepare for his journey to America in 1868; Karl Karlson, whose family arrives in New York in 1893; and Elin Hedman and her daughter Birgitta who passed through Ellis Island in 1924.

Special Exhibit in the Main Gallery


Outside the Lines: Comics from Sweden to Chicago

Exhibit opening, Sunday, March 25, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Start with Art, Friday, April 27, 9 a.m. – noon
Family Night, Friday, April 27, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Exhibit closing, Sunday, June 24, 4 p.m.

The Swedish American Museum is featuring an exhibit on Swedish comics, entitled Outside the Lines: Comics From Sweden to Chicago. The exhibit will celebrate the colorful history of Swedish narrative art, cartooning, and graphic novels. It highlights the cross-pollination of artistic expression between the United States and Sweden including shared characters, magazines and movements, ranging from Mad Magazine and underground comics to Fantomen (The Phantom). A special point of interest will be a section on Wilson McCoy, the Chicago-area artist who drew The Phantom in the 1950s/1960s and his artistic influence on Swedish pop art. Complementing this history will be strips from Chicago comic artists speaking to a variety of social issues, from LGBTQ and feminist causes to immigration stories, showcasing the medium’s ability to reach diverse audiences and to provide a platform for marginalized voices.

A variety of programming related to narrative art, comics and graphic novels will round out the experience throughout the exhibit’s run.

Still Life
by Karin Broos

Exhibit opening, Friday, July 6, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Start with Art, Friday, August 3, 9 a.m. – noon
Family Night, Friday, August 3, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Exhibit closing, Sunday, September 23, 4 p.m.

Karin Broos is one of the most acclaimed Swedish artists of our time. Her photo-realistic work seemingly mundane motives express ambiguous meanings and universal feelings of melancholy and sadness. Broos gains inspiration from within her home and family, as well as for the nature and landscape of Värmland, where she resides. Karin Broos ‘Still Life’ include paintings from 2011 until today, many of which are new to the public.

Special Exhibits in the Raoul Wallenberg Gallery


Dreams of a Swedish Summer
by LaManda Joy

Exhibit opening, Friday, April 27, 11 a.m.
Exhibit closing, Sunday, July 29, 4 p.m.

LaManda Joy is an award-winning Illinois Extension Master Gardener, author, speaker and founder of Chicago’s Peterson Garden Project. Her life’s mission is to inspire everyone she meets to grow their own food… seriously. A lover of garden culture in all forms, she’s often found “plant snooping” around the US and Europe. She’s particularly enamored with the gardens of her husband Peter Wigren’s native land – Sweden.

In this exhibit “Dreams of a Swedish Summer” LaManda will share some of her favorite garden memories from visits over the years to Stockholm and Gotland. From Kolonilott (community gardens) to 300-year-old urban farms and charming garden centers to renegade hollyhocks growing through sidewalk cracks in Stockholm… LaManda’s love for the plant world and the garden community shines through in this exhibition.

Photographs by Charles Spaak
by David Girson

Exhibit soft opening, Friday, August 3, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Exhibit opening, Friday, August 10, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Exhibit closing, Sunday, October 28, 4 p.m.

Hobby photographer David Girson bought a box of glass negatives at an estate sale in Park Ridge in the late 90s. Over the last 20 years David learned how to print glass negatives and did research into the negatives he had bought. What he found was a piece of history. The negatives belonged to a Swedish immigrant, Charles E Spaak, who immigrated to Chicago in 1885. He was schooled in engineering and was a draughtsman along with engineer. He worked mainly in Chicago but was also positioned in St Louis and Seattle. David has scanned over 100 glass negatives dating from 1885 to the early 1900s. Many of the pictures were taken in Chicago but also in Seattle and Sweden.

Some of these photographs will be available for viewing for the very first time here at the Museum. There are pictures of family, landscapes and work scenes. A look into life of an immigrant.