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Tattoo exhibit is part of Vesterheim's goal "to open our doors wider"

Posted: Sun, Jun 23, 2019 2:46 PM
(Photo courtesy of Vesterheim Museum)

When Vesterheim Museum held an Opening Night event for its latest exhibit, "Tattoo: Identity through Ink," some 250 people attended.  Vesterheim President and CEO Chris Johnson remembers thinking to himself, "I don't think I've ever seen these people in our museum before."  That made him happy.

Johnson tells that the museum is looking for exhibits with a tie-in to the Norwegian-American experience, but also "we want to have story lines...that relate to people without a Norwegian background."

There have been other exhibits at the museum which fit this category, but "Tattoo" certainly is one of the most successful.  Johnson says it started several years ago after seeing a private collection of flash art owned by a Milwaukee resident, then visiting Chicago's Field Museum and learning it had set up a tattoo parlor for its exhibit on tattoos.

That led Vesterheim to reach out to some new partners, such as Decorah tattoo parlor owner Brock  Swenson; Decorah brewers Toppling Goliath, which wanted to make a beer using Norwegian yeasts; and Nick and Courtney Rowley, who agreed to sponsor any tattoo exhibit.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Vesterheim will be holding "Tattoo Talks" on September 19th, October 29th and November 24th.  Johnson says it's part of Vesterheim's campaign to think more about what other programs can be tied to a temporary exhibit.

It's all part of the museum's campaign to, as Johnson puts it, "get people to see themselves in our exhibits."  The Norwegian-American experience will continue to be a central part of that effort, but so will a broader reach to other cultures.

More information about Vesterheim's "Tattoo: Identity through Ink" exhibit is available at: