Make A Difference. Help Grow Vesterheim.

From Strong Roots, A Bold Future

On Saturday, September 30, 2023, Vesterheim celebrated the opening of the Commons with a public dedication and ribbon cutting! Enjoy a commemorative booklet here and pictures of the event here.

This $12.5 million campaign will create a unified campus that promotes innovative programming and learning while building a strong sense of community.

The estimated costs for the two major components of the Strong Roots | Bold Future Campaign to Grow Vesterheim are:

Vesterheim’s bold future grows from roots put down by courageous Norwegian immigrants coming to America, told through the unequalled collection of Norwegian-American artistic and historical objects that Vesterheim holds in trust. 

From these strong roots Vesterheim is building a bold future that will:

This future includes innovative access to the collection, unique exhibits, creative learning programs, excursions to and from Norway, and expanding folk-art classes. Vesterheim invites audiences of every age and heritage to connect the past to the future by immersing themselves in the stories and culture of these Norwegian settlers who help us appreciate today’s immigrant experience and how it will shape America’s future.

Built into these plans is the recognition that the Commons, Heritage Park, and the entire museum campus must be sustainable. Maintenance and care are priorities in the museum’s financial strategy. More details can be found in the business plan.

With the generous support of early donors and the careful management of the museum’s capital reserves, Vesterheim trustees made the prudent decision to proceed with the construction of the Commons, counting on the generosity of friends like you to help complete the funding needed for this important project.  

How You Can Make A Difference


Cash gifts can be made:

Online through the secure  “Donate Now” button above.

Download and complete the campaign Pledge Form (PDF) and return via mail with your
• check or money order made payable to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum/Campaign, or
• credit/debit card information, or
• direct withdrawal bank account information.

Matching Donations

Many corporations offer matching gift programs. Such programs may allow donors to double or even triple the amount of their contribution. Matching gift forms are available from company personnel or human resource offices.

Appreciated Stocks, Bonds, and Mutual Funds

An alternative to cash is a gift of appreciated securities. Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds owned for more than one year and that have increased in value are popular assets used for charitable giving. Please consult your financial professional for advice on maximizing your campaign gift plans. A brokerage account transfer form is available from the Development Office or you can download a copy.

A Re-imagined, Open, and Accessible Heritage Park

The first major project of the Strong Roots | Bold Future campaign is the re-imagining of Heritage Park, the outdoor exhibit and program space for Vesterheim’s 12 historic buildings. Heritage Park opened in summer 2021. Guided by the Snøhetta master plan, Heritage Park has been designed by Damon Farber Landscape Architects to be an accessible and open public space reminiscent of Norway’s forests and glades. Here, people can connect with one another amidst tangible historic buildings set in nature.

Beginning at the plaza that depicts the 1825 voyage of immigrants on the ship Restauration, meandering pathways will guide visitors around gentle glades, past a community amphitheater, and through the expanded parkwhere history comes alive by experiencing how Norwegian pioneers lived.

Special care has been given to create an environmentally sensitive community park with native plantings and woodlands appropriate to this Driftless Area of America’s Midwest, permeable pavers, and sustainable stormwater management.

A World-Class Vesterheim Commons

The unifying piece for Vesterheim is this new Snøhetta-designed Commons. The Commons, with three-levels and 7,600 sq. ft., will tie the campus together, providing the museum with a spectacular front entry and opening into Heritage Park. It will physically link the past and the future, connect the collection to the Folk Art School, and enrich the Vesterheim visitor experience for those coming to Decorah or participating digitally. 

During its 90-year history on Water Street in downtown Decorah, Vesterheim acquired property and buildings to preserve its collection, offer folk-art classes, expand the Museum Store, provide workspace for museum staff, and host compelling exhibits. Pieced together, the acquired properties – though often historic in nature – could not create a sense of a unified campus or museum experience.
The new Water Street entrance will invite visitors into a light-filled lobby and community event space beneath a soaring ceiling. From here members and guests can explore the museum’s collection, browse the Museum Store, and enjoy easy access to the redesigned Heritage Park.
The upper levels of the Commons will expand exhibit space to showcase the collection, including a terrace overlooking Heritage Park. These areas provide an opportunity for visitors and folk artists to engage personally with curated objects from the collection, as well as support the museum’s expanding virtual programming with a digital production studio and online classroom.
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Need Help Now?

If you want to speak to someone about how you can support Vesterheim’s bold new future, call Diane Wagner or Kim Toussaint.

Diane Wagner: 563-382-9681 x103

Kim Toussaint: 563-382-9681 x105