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 stimulus for founding the Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA). Read more about the history of NAHA below.
NAHA Editor Theodore Blegen published “Norwegian Migration to America, 1825-1860” and then in 1940 published “Norwegian Migration to America: The American Transition.” These books were foundational works in Norwegian-American scholarship and shaped the way that Norwegian-American immigration was studied.
The publishing program of NAHA became difficult to sustain due to World War II paper shortages in America. During the war years, only two issues of Studies and Records were published.
The field of women’s ethnic history, which highlighted often-overlooked narratives of women’s experiences, began to grow within the Norwegian-American scholarly community. This movement included contemporary works by Aagot Raaen, as well as the translation and publication of women’s diaries and journals from previous decades.
During a time of cultural upheaval in America, the “New Ethnicity” movement took form in scholarly communities. This movement rejected the “melting pot” theory of American citizenship and instead celebrated individual cultural heritage. NAHA membership increased as more people became interested in Norwegian ethnic history.
NAHA celebrated its 50th anniversary with a major address by Rudolph J. Vecoli, the long-time director of the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) at the University of Minnesota. Vecoli believed that NAHA was well-positioned to highlight the benefits of cultural pluralism through its publications and archival holdings.
NAHA Editor Odd S. Lovoll published “The Promise of America: A History of the Norwegian-American People,” and then in 1990, “The Promise Fulfilled: A Portrait of Norwegian Americans Today.” In these influential volumes, Lovoll reflected new understandings of the Norwegian-American experience that had evolved since Blegen’s earlier publications.
The King Olav V Chair in Scandinavian-American Studies was created at St. Olaf College through gifts from the Norwegian government and the Kenneth O. Bjork Endowment Fund. The holder of the chair encourages continued study of Scandinavian-American history and serves on the board of NAHA.
NAHA organized “Northern Migrations,” its first group tour to Norway. The group visited historic sites from Trondheim to Bodø, including the birthplace of O. E. Rølvaag on the island of Dønna. Following the tour, participants had the option of attending the triennial seminar of NAHA sister organization, NAHA-Norge.
NAHA and St. Olaf reaffirmed their partnership and reorganized their structures, laying the groundwork for future cooperation and shared facilities.
NAHA relaunched “Norwegian-American Studies” in partnership with University of Minnesota Press. Now available in print and digital format, the journal is focused on showcasing new scholarship in the field of Norwegian-American studies, including the related fields of history, literature, religion, art, and cultural studies.
To commemorate the bicentennial of Norwegian immigration to North America, NAHA will host a seminar, together with its sister organization in Norway, and NORTANA (Norwegian Researchers and Teachers Association of North America). The seminar will be held on the St. Olaf College campus in June of 2025.