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Celebrating the heritage

Museum open house Saturday brings taste of Sweden to Stratford

November 7, 2011
Anne Blankenship - Managing editor ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

STRATFORD The "velkomenn" or welcome sign was out at Swedish Immigrant Museum Saturday as local residents and visitors were invited explore the Stratford collection of artifacts and information.

The museum pays homage to the town's Swedish heritage and to the immigrants who settled in the Swede Bend area near Stratford, as well as other settlements across the state.

Visitors on Saturday sampled traditional Swedish cookies, kringla and pastries, and had an opportunity to make wooden Christmas ornaments, decorated in colorful Swedish motifs. Volunteers visited with those who stopped in, explaining the many displays and answering questions about the history of the area.

Article Photos

- Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Anne Blankenship
Kendall Riherd, 5, Parkersburg, visited the Stratford Immigrant Museum Saturday during the facility’s open house. Children were invited to color Swedish Christmas ornaments during the event.

Ruby Erickson Hendricksen, a Stratford native who now lives in San Francisco, and Dixie Johnson, another Stratford resident, founded the Swedish Foundation in 1999. Hendrickson and Johnson decided to provide a place where information on Swedish immigrants and Swedish heritage could be compiled and housed. Hendrickson, who travels to Stratford several times a year, attended the open house Saturday. She said they started the project with an immigrant registry.

"That was in the Stratford library for several years," she said. In 2003, a museum on Shakespeare Avenue was opened to house the registry and other artifacts and memoribila. Last year, the foundation purchased a historic brick building on Goldsmith Street.

"We thought this would be our base camp," she said. "We had so much stuff. The problem was the kids had no idea about their backgrounds. A lot of that information was being lost through the cracks," Hendricksen said.

Though the facility is located in a small building, museum coordinators have made the most of the space with large bookshelves and vertical displays. Volumes of family history and exhibits on everything from the Vikings to life in rural Iowa have a place and are on display. Large maps show the routes the Swedish immigrants took to reach their Iowa and other Midwest destinations. The museum also has information on other area settlements in Boone and Webster counties.

Hendrickson brought out a nickel harp, a wooden musical instrument played with a bow. The instrument, along with a native Swedish costume. The dress was a colorful handmade red and blue frock with intricate hand-stitched embellishments. Both items were donation to the museum.

"Her handwork here was really beautiful," Hendrickson said of the costume. "It was really fine, fine work."

"Donations keep coming in," she said, pointing to some Swedish language art magazines recently received by the museum.

Hendrickson encouraged people to keep scrapbooks, photographs and documents pertaining to their Swedish ancestors.

"That 100 years between 1845 and 1945 is really important," she said. "That's when the immigrants came here and so much happened during that time.

"It's important to have that information for future generation so they know their heritage."

Hendrickson said she would eventually like to see a Swedish immigrant council established with representatives from all of the major Iowa and Illinois settlements.

"That way we could put together a brochure for the state of Iowa that could be placed at visitor's centers. Then if someone was interested in learning more about Iowa Swedes, they would know where to go or who to contact," Hendrickson said.



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