We Are America

We Are America


We are proud to announce that we have received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. They advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grant making, research, and policy development. Their vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities.

We Are America explores the story of Swedish immigration to Chicago. Visitors will see environmental displays such as the deck of a steamship, a 19th century Swedish stuga, an early 20th century Swedish-American woodshop, and a mid-century Swedish-American kitchen. Through a range of artifacts, images, and interactives, visitors will learn about the lives Swedish immigrants built in the U.S., from employment to recreation to religion to home life.

Throughout the exhibit, personal stories are highlighted to help tell this immigration story. You will meet Elin and Birgitta Hedman, a Swedish mother and daughter who stayed overnight at Ellis Island while waiting for Elin’s husband to pick them up. Thor Rydholm, a young Swedish-American from Lee Country, Illinois who served in the U.S. military during World War I, and Anna Elisabet Martinsson, a young woman who traveled to America by herself aboard the SS Stockholm in 1925. There are many more included, and each Swedish-American’s story illuminates how Swedes created community in a new land. Through the jobs Swedes worked, clubs they joined, holidays celebrated, and hardships shared, the Swedish-American identity began to take shape and became one many proudly embrace today.

There will also be a variety of interactives in the exhibit including an interactive map showing the routes Swedes took from Sweden to Chicago, a Swedish children’s game to play, a touch screen interactive to explore Swedish clubs, and many more. Each interactive is aimed at engaging all ages and audiences as a fun way to learn more about Swedish-American heritage and culture.

While We Are America looks at immigration through the Swedish-American lens, it also invites visitors to compare this story with others from Chicago. We worked with partners from the Chicago Cultural Alliance, to feature immigration stories submitted by the Japanese American Service Committee, Korean Cultural Center of Chicago, Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Dominican-American Midwest Association, and the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society.