The Nordic American Voices project captures the oral history of the Nordic community, and now shares these stories in the new book Voices of Ballard and Beyond.
An important effort at the Nordic Heritage Museum has been in the works by volunteers for a number of years. Begun in 1999 as the Vanishing Generation Project, this expansive oral history project was a joint effort of the Ballard Historical Society, the Swedish Finn Historical Society, and the Nordic Heritage Museum.
The original idea was to capture stories about Ballard’s evolution over time, and for this effort 123 interviews were carried out and transcribed. In fact, this project was a result of earlier oral history projects, including one by Leif Eie and Knut Karlsen in the 1990s. Eie and Karlsen’s group recorded memories among Nordic residents of Ballard.
One result of the Vanishing Generation Project was the 289-page book Voices of Ballard: Immigrant Stories from the Vanishing Generation, which sold out quickly. The oral history effort continued after the book was published as the Nordic American Voices project, and recently the group published an expanded edition of the original volume. “It just seemed appropriate to add new content from the interviews conducted since 2009,” explains editor Gordon Strand.
For the new volume, titled Voices of Ballard and Beyond, Stories of Immigrants and Their Descendants in the Pacific Northwest, an enormous endeavor was launched, which entailed 29 volunteers conducting interviews over more than 800 hours. In 2012 alone, around 350 hours were spent selecting and editing the transcripts for the new book. “This does not include hours expended by volunteers at home reviewing and correcting transcripts, preparing for interviews, or editing the transcripts for the book,” Strand points out. In addition, seven volunteers poured over the manuscripts editing and proofreading the volume before publication.
The result: an expanded volume that contains 31 new chapters and 200 additional pages, and forever captures the stories of generations of Nordic Americans in the Pacific Northwest.
“When asked to participate, many people say they really don’t have anything remarkable to relate, that their lives were quite ordinary,” says Strand. “More often than not we hear very captivating stories about people living, often heroically, through some of the great events of the 20th century. This is history from the bottom up. It is not the saga of generals and great political leaders. We are hearing about the way people and families survived, coped and even flourished through two world wars, a great depression and the transition to life in a new world and the constant effort to retain ethnic traditions.”
— posted by Erin M. Schadt, Nordic Heritage Museum