Author: Swedish American Museum

Andersonville Water Tower Replacement Coming Soon

Water TowerToday marks three years since the Andersonville Water Tower was removed after the extraordinarily harsh winter of 2014. For nearly 90 years, it proudly served as a landmark for our neighborhood. Thanks to all of your support, we are excited to share that we will be announcing details regarding the replacement very soon. Stay tuned for exciting news! If you’d like to help us, please visit our Support page.

Fun for Everyone in Andersonville

KristineCasartPhotography-ChicagoPhotographer-EvanstonPhotographer-SwedishAmericanMuseum-31Looking for something fun to do? Chicago Parent offers some great ideas for a family day in Andersonville, including playtime at our Children’s Museum, brunch at one of the many great neighborhood spots, pie at First Slice Pie Cafe, story time at Women & Children First Bookstore and a performance from the Puppet Bike!

Taylor Wood says, “The Swedish American Museum is often considered the epicenter of Andersonville and for good reason. This little museum is both informative and fun for anyone who visits.” Visit Chicago Parent to read the full article.

Our Genealogy Center is Expanding

GENEALOGY1As part of our 40th Anniversary Campaign, we are upgrading our Genealogy Center with new technology and expanded public access to help our visitors research their history, connect with their roots and discover new family members.

Thanks to the support of our genealogy donors, we were able to reach our goal of $10,000 by Dec. 31, 2016. We also received a generous matching grant of $10,000 from the Olson Family Foundation.

We are looking forward to keeping you posted on our expansion plans, and hope to see you at our new and improved Genealogy Center soon!

– Allison Deerr, Fundraising Coordinator 

Meet the Volunteer: Diana Gardner

Diana GardnerIt’s hard to believe Diana Gardner has been volunteering with us for less than a year. She made her home in Bristol, Rhode Island before moving back to Chicago. Diana has always been connected to Chicago and chose to return to be near her family and friends.

There was something Diana missed when she made Chicago her home once again. In Rhode Island Diana had the opportunity to volunteer at Blithewold Mansion for several years. “I enjoyed welcoming guests and giving a little history of the Van Winkle Family whose daughter Marjorie saved the mansion, with all the furnishings, for the state of Rhode Island. Once I got settled in Chicago I wanted to volunteer and hoped to find a place as special as Blithewold.”

Once her son found her an apartment for her in Andersonville, it wasn’t long before Diana found the Swedish American Museum. It was in walking distance of her place and attracted her right away. According to Diana she knew she wanted to volunteer at the Museum with its wonderful and kind staff and volunteers. For her she observed that the Museum “is a peaceful, comfortable, mid-sized museum that does big things.”

Diana has enjoyed volunteering at the front desk, welcoming guests, answering questions and providing information. Her enthusiasm is contagious. She has also helped with many special events and programs for both children and adults including breakfasts, dinners, concerts and wonderful art exhibits. Diana also threw herself into preparations and pricing for Tantalizing Treasures.

According to Diana, “The whole experience of being a volunteer at the Swedish American Museum is a very fulfilling one for me with its wonderful community of volunteers, staff and guests. I am always meeting and enjoying visitors from around the world. It’s a happy place to volunteer and there is so much to learn about the history of the many interesting families who immigrated from Sweden.”

From the vantage point of the front desk, Diana also enjoys seeing the excited faces of our youngest guests coming to the Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration. Diana said about these visitors and their families, “Electronics are put away and imaginations engage—priceless in this day and age.”

Diana makes a point to say, “You don’t have to be Swedish to volunteer at the Swedish American Museum, just bring your enthusiasm and your smile. I have been blessed to find great joy here.” She is a wonderful representative of the spectacular volunteers we have at the Museum and we look forward to her contributions for years to come.

– Elizabeth Cline, Membership and Volunteer Manager

Meet the Interns: Britney Scott and Maria Marszalek


Britney Scott

This spring the Museum has hosted two interns: Britney Scott, a freshman marketing major at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Maria Marszalek, a senior psychology major at Northeastern Illinois University.

Britney has worked primarily in support of the Museum’s marketing efforts. She has contributed to marketing committee meetings, created posters and flyers, promoted events online and learned about using InDesign, among other things. She has also shadowed other members of staff to give her a broader idea about Museum operations and activities.

When asked what made her choose the Swedish American Museum for her internship Britney said, “I wanted to intern at a non-profit organization to expand on my past business experiences and expose myself to how a non-profit operates. Because I study Swedish in my spare time and have developed an interest in Swedish culture, the Museum stood out as a natural choice to both satisfy my personal interest and develop skills that will be relevant to my career path in marketing.”

Maria Marszalek

Maria Marszalek

Maria has been working at the Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration, where she has been creating parts of the program for this year’s Pioneer the World Day Camp. It has been a positive experience for Maria to see firsthand how interactive and culturally-rich the Brunk Children’s Museum is and learning more about the importance of those two factors in child development

At the Swedish American Museum Maria has enjoyed “being able to relate my own culture and immigration history to the one of the Swedish people. My family and I are immigrants from Poland and can relate to many of the struggles our Swedish and Polish ancestors faced.”

On what her Museum experience has taught her Maria said, “One thing that I will take away from my internship is the importance of preserving culture, history and being able to share that within the community. With Chicago being such a diverse city it is so important to share where you came from and be proud of the path our ancestors paved for us.”

The Museum offers internship opportunities year-round in a variety of fields from curatorial internships to those focused on education, marketing or development. The benefit of interning in a mid-sized museum such as the Swedish American Museum is that interns receive exposure to multiple areas and are often given the chance to create small projects all their own.

– Lesli Proffitt Nordstrom, Marketing Manager

40th Anniversary Celebrations

Kurt Mathiasson

Kurt Mathiasson, founder of the Swedish American Museum

2016 is an exciting year for the Museum as we celebrate our 40th anniversary, as well as Brunk’s 15 fantastic years. What started out as a small storefront log cabin in 1976, has evolved into the renowned Chicago landmark that it is today thanks to the dedication and support of our leaders, both past and present. Founded by Kurt Mathiasson, the Swedish immigrant affectionately known as the “Mayor of Andersonville,” the Museum’s first location served as a modest symbol of Swedish-American culture and heritage in Chicago. While humble in size, Mathiasson’s cabin was still able to garner the attention of his majesty Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, who was present for the Museum’s opening day during the U.S. Bicentennial Year.

As the Museum grew and increased in support and popularity, we moved to our current location in 1987, the former site of Lind Hardware. Once again, the King of Sweden returned to celebrate a new beginning with the Queen by his side. Building on that excitement, Mayor Eugene Sawyer was inspired to declare 1988 the “Year of New Sweden” and the city of Chicago donated $40,000 to the Museum.

In the late 1990s, the Museum underwent renovations adding new gallery space and the “Dream of America” exhibit. This exhibit was made possible by the generous donations of the Nordiska Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. Renovation continued in the early 2000s when the grand staircase was added, providing direct access to the second floor exhibit. We then opened our doors to the nation’s first children’s immigration museum–the Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration.

In 2006, we celebrated 30 years with the “A New Face in Andersonville” campaign, which brought about a modernized front façade and signage, as well as the Kerstin Andersson Museum Store and the remodeled Barbro Osher Lobby. Seven years later, our Buzz Aldrin exhibit became a permanent addition to the Children’s Museum and we acquired a dedicated parking lot thanks to the Nelson Funeral Home.

Today, as we are inspired by our early leaders to continue our mission into the future, we are embracing fresh opportunities for growth that enable us to better connect with new generations. With the one million dollars we hope to raise with our 40th Anniversary Campaign, we plan to give visitors a deeper understanding and appreciation for the ongoing immigration story. We will continue to build the Museum’s reputation as a premier destination for Swedish art, history and culture through interactive exhibits, digital storytelling, and an improved Genealogy Center.

Our plans include increasing opportunities for involvement for students, young adults and families, through modernized classroom areas and technology updates. We also intend to expand the Kerstin Andersson Museum Store and open an adjacent Swedish café that will help preserve Swedish heritage in Andersonville.

We ask you to join us in realizing this vision that will serve our community well into the next 40 years. We invite you to commemorate 2016 with our 40 and 15-year birthday celebrations, the arrival of the new Andersonville Water Tower replica, and the launch of our 40th Anniversary Campaign.

– Allison Deerr, Fundraising Coordinator 

Many Reasons to Celebrate in 2016

water tower

The original Andersonville Water Tower that stood for 90 years before it was damaged by an extraordinarily harsh winter in 2014.

2016 brings us new beginnings, fresh opportunities, and the chance to restore our community’s treasured landmark. As we say “hejdå” to 2015 and “hej” to the new year, the Museum will celebrate its 40th anniversary, as well as the 15th birthday of the Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration. In addition to recognizing these significant achievements, the Museum is looking forward to erecting a replica of the iconic and sorely missed Andersonville Water Tower.

While the replica will not serve as a functioning replacement for the former water tower, it will serve as a reminder of our history and a symbol of our perseverance. To date, the Museum has raised nearly $120,000 of the projected $150,000 needed for the Water Tower Fund. We want to express our gratitude to those who participated in our can drive throughout 2014 and 2015, as we were able to raise more than $1,000 toward the cause, thanks to the support of our loyal allies along North Clark Street. We would also like to thank those who provided major gifts of $10,000 or more: Museum life trustees Ulla and Bertil Brunk, the Edith Marie Appleton Foundation by Museum trustee Albert Goodman, the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, and life trustees Bo and Anita Hedfors.

We are proud to report that the new design concept is coming along smoothly and the construction should be underway as soon as the necessary permits have been received. We will keep you updated as we look forward to celebrating these milestones with all of you throughout 2016.

– Allison Deerr, Fundraising Coordinator

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