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:
22 Sustainable Houses from Bollnäs to Kiruna

HedlundaThe exhibit shows twenty-two examples of sustainable houses (1994-2014). They display the wide range of results that can come from design of sustainable buildings. Every house is presented with photographs as well as a how the architects describe how sustainable building was used in that project. The examples are selected from the book ”Sustainable houses in cold climate”, published by Svensk Byggtjänst in 2015.

Different types of houses are presented – big and complex, small and simple, at the ocean, in the forest and in the city. What they all have in common is that they were designed and built with care and focus on sustainable building. For the exhibition we have chosen some examples of sustainable buildings from the north of Sweden. They show how sustainable architecture can be designed in one geological area, but also some examples of common denominators that unite them. The hope with ”Sustainable houses in cold climate” is that it becomes a source of inspiration for all who plans to build, and is an eye-opener for everyone who daily spends time in buildings.

This exhibition is presented by the editors: Ulf Nordwall, Technical Licentiate in Architecture and active at PEAB with Project Development and Thomas Olofsson, Professor in Energy Efficiency at Umeå University.

Exhibit Opening, Sunday, March 19, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Opening Celebration with Talk, Sunday, March 26, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Start with Art, Friday, March 31, 9 a.m. – noon

Family Night, Friday, March 31, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Exhibit Closing, Sunday, June 4 at 4 p.m.

Special Exhibit:
Björn Breitholtz


bjorn-breithotz“I went to Masthugget, egastaden Landala with an old Leica-camera in a leather strap over my shoulder. I had just been admitted to the Art College in Gothenburg. I was curious. This was 1959.” While studying art in Gothenburg, photographer Björn Breitholtz, captured the daily life in the port city during the 1950s and 1960s. At a time when many were still leaving for America by boat, Gothenburg was a center of Sweden’s transatlantic travel.

The Swedish American Museum will host an exhibition of Breitholtz’ photography in our Raoul Wallenberg Room. His black and white stills present a snapshot of life in Gothenburg during a time of transition. After studying in Stockholm and Gothenburg, Breitholtz opened his own studio and continued to work as a freelance photographer for monthly magazines, as well as the Victor Hasselblad company. Throughout his career he has exhibited his work in Lund, Malmö and Gothenburg.

Exhibit Closing, Saturday, March 25 at 4 p.m.


Upcoming Special Exhibit:
Chicago Streetwalk 
by Mats Alfredsson

Exhibit Celebration and meeting with the photographer on Thursday, March 30 at 6 p.m.


“For me, street photography is to discover and document what others usually don’t see. Small human events in the public space, which normally go unnoticed, but in the frozen moment leaving traces. My passion for this classic genre is based on a genuine interest in people of all ages and social classes.

Last autumn I release my first book, Chicago Streetwalk. The book is all about Chicago. A city I often return to. A legendary city that offers everything I like about street photography. Seduced by the dark alleys underneath the Loop, I see the real Gotham City. I see Batman. The iron bridges spellbind me, as well as the river, the bars, the blues and the open-minded people. This is my kind of city.

The exhibition “Streetwalk” and the book is my tribute to the Windy City and to its people. I hope that you are able to sense some of that urbanity that’s ever present here. Welcome to Chicago, spend a few moments here and perhaps wonder (as I do) about life as it is.”

Mats Alfredsson’s photographs will be accompanied by poems by Carl Sandburg.