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Preserving History

Capturing their experience
Voices calling for the creation of a center for Norwegian-American history go back to 1875. Fifty years later the Norse-American Centennial of 1925 provided the needed stimulus for action. In that year persons of vision and talent founded the Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA).

NAHA's mission is to develop an awareness of the many strands that make up the fabric of our country's history and the society in which we live. Important among these are the stories and records of the immigrants who settled our land. Each ethnic group brought its own character to an ever-expanding diversity. The result is a cultural richness unique in the world.

The goal of NAHA is to locate, collect, preserve and interpret the Norwegian-American part of this whole with accuracy, integrity, and liveliness. In doing so, Norwegian-Americans will have an identifiable position in America's past, present, and future.

Ole E. Rølvaag, the Association's first secretary (1925-1931) and author of Giants in the Earth , was an energetic collector. J. Jørgen Thompson, who served as secretary from 1931 to 1958, added a large quantity of material. Carlton C. Qualey served NAHA for a time as a field agent and collected material that might otherwise have been lost. Editors, Theodore C. Blegen, Kenneth O. Bjork, and Odd. S. Lovoll, have turned in papers that they and their associates have uncovered during their research into Norwegian-American history. Rolf Erickson combed the Chicago area for overlooked material. A large portion of the collection, however, stems from donations made, or uncovered, by members of the Association.

Proper organization of the manuscripts began in 1960 when Beulah Folkedahl became the Association's first curator. Most of the backlog of unprocessed papers was in organized form when she died in 1971. Charlotte Jacobson, a former librarian at St. Olaf College, became curator in 1974. Forrest Brown, formerly the head librarian at the Rølvaag Memorial Library, St. Olaf College, succeeded Charlotte Jacobson in 1990, and retired in 2005.


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