This week, Laura and Joelle are joined by Karin Moen Abercrombie and Emily England of the Swedish American Museum. Karin who has joined us on the podcast before is the Executive Director of this beloved institution and community hub in the heart of Andersonville, and Emily as the Museum curator manages the permanent collection as well as exhibits at 5211 N Clark.
“Museums were doing social distancing before it was cool.” – Emily England
“In one way, the world has become much smaller because it’s via the click of the computer.” – Karin Moen Abercrombie
Listen to Episode 112 with Karin & Emily!
Here are some references from Episode 112 that you may want to check out:
- Emily started with the Museum as the curator a year and a half ago in January 2019. Prior, she earned her Masters of Museum & Exhibition Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago. She also has previously worked at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in D.C. and earned her undergraduate degree at Luther College. She also worked for the Vesterheim Museum.
- Emily grew up in Iowa, and Chicago was the closest cultural hub. She came here in hopes of working for another smaller museum, and was thrilled to land the job at the Swedish American Museum.
- So far “Colors of the North” and “The Lost Houses of Lindale” have been among her favorite exhibits she has worked on so far.
- Karin reflects on moving a lot of the Museum’s programming online to virtual formats due to COVID-19. In particular, Scandinavian Jam and the Book Club and TV Series discussions have been very popular online. She notes that it’s been a lot of fun for folks to sit and connect over discussion, whether it be movies, books or a TV Series. Check out the Museum’s event calendar here for upcoming virtual offerings
- One of the benefits of COVID has been the ability to connect with other Museums around the country and around the world via virtual meetings and to learn from each other.
- Karin talks a little bit about the Museum’s “Travel the World” Summer camp, which went virtual this summer, and was a big success! The Museum also hosted a virtual Viking Party back on August 26.
- Karin also reflects on being able to still connect with the community via curbside pickup for the Museum store, since they provide food items as an essential service. Place your own order-to-go here.
“We are convinced we can teach everyone how a Swedish cinnamon roll can taste vs. an American cinnamon roll.” – Karin
- The Museum is currently testing programming of hosting live baking tutorials for up to six people in their large gallery space, but are doing virtual baking tutorials for kids, available on the website.
- In general, the Museum has participated in a lot of the COVID training that is available, particularly anything the Andersonville Chamber offered. They have put up plenty of signage, but not so much as to be a “sign city.” Their lobby is closed right now because of the fabric chairs, and their coat closet is also closed.
- Emily found blue and yellow footprints to use around the galleries as a guide in case of any potential gatherings of more than one family group or household. She comments that museums are nice in the fact that patrons are not allowed to touch the artifacts! The staff sends an internal text to notify other staff members when guests are arriving in the Museum.
- The Museum store is even offering gloves so shoppers can still touch items they are interested in. Shop the store online here.
- High touch points are sanitized after each group leaves the Museum. They are currently allowing 10-15 people per floor in the Museum at a time. The elevator use is minimized to only 2 people at a time, or per family, but the Museum is encouraging use of both staircases.
- The current exhibit at the Museum is called “Swedish Dads” by photographer Johan Bävman. His focus is on photographs of Dads who take more than 6 months of paternity leave. Sweden allows parents up to 480 days of combined parental leave, so the artist wanted to capture Dads in action during their domestic lives.
- There are 15 portraits for “Swedish Dads” coupled with short vignettes on why each Dad chose to do the extra leave and their perspective on raising their children. Learn more about the exhibit here.
- The Museum will be hanging a few of the images on vinyl banners in their parking lot to allow visitors to experience some of the work without having to go inside the space.
- The Museum has two different people working in Marketing right now, and they have worked hard to make the graphics on signage and social media more fun and playful. Store Manager, Catherine, has also gotten very creative with the store marketing too! Check out Catherine’s Featured Top Friday Instagram takeover for the Chamber last week.
- Every Friday, the Museum bakes fresh cinnamon rolls. It’s not that different from an American Cinnamon Roll, but it has pearl sugar on top instead of frosting and it isn’t quite as sweet. Karin has been able to test new cookies and pastries too in preparation for the eventual opening of the Swedish American Museum cafe, which will open sometime in the future! Order baked goods to-go here.
- The Museum is currently working on renovations between 5211 N Clark and 5217 N Clark. They purchased 5217 N Clark Street about three years ago in order to expand the retail store into the 5217 storefront to allow the cafe to move into the current Museum store space. They are also working to expand their second floor conference room, and create an outdoor courtyard space that will connect directly to the main gallery space. The Museum will use the gallery space/courtyard for their own events, but also for private events.
- Karin takes a moment to thank all of her staff members: Emily, Elise, Angelica, Caroline, Stacey, and Catherine. Check out the staff here.
- If given a chance to switch places with other Andersonville businesses for a day, Emily would choose to switch places with the Edgewater Historical Society (5358 N Ashland) and Karin would switch places with Defloured: A Gluten Free Bakery (1477 W Balmoral) so that Karin could learn to adjust some of the traditional Swedish baked goods with gluten free alternatives.
- The best way to support the Museum right now is to continue or start a membership, visit (even though the children’s museum is closed), and participate in various fundraising events and campaigns, including upcoming events. There is a Family Festival in the Museum parking lot on September 12 from 11AM-3PM, and then on September 13 there is a virtual ABBA concert! And on November 7 is the annual Aspire Gala fundraiser, but virtual this year including a silent auction. And then of course, the Museum store is open! Come visit for fun Swedish gifts and Swedish snacks.