From the age of the Vikings to the settlers of the New Sweden Colony (1638-1655), to contemporary issues in Scandinavian society, the American Swedish Historical Museum will take you back in time and across the sea to learn the stories of Swedes in America.

Outdoor Adventures: Navigating the Nordic Way

People from the Nordic nations love being outdoors. Join us as we explore the history of Nordic navigation, compasses, and the modern-day sport of orienteering.

For thousands of years, people in northern Europe navigated turbulent seas and dark forests to survive and thrive. The Vikings were particularly renowned for their directional abilities at sea by using unique tools, birds, and their own senses to find land. This exhibit highlights the techniques that brought these voyagers from the Black Sea to Newfoundland!

Curious about compasses? You can also learn about how the compass revolutionized navigation in Europe beginning in the 1600s. This exhibit includes compasses spanning the last 500 years and explains their role in transforming wayfinding. These objects also gave rise to the Nordic sport of orienteering by the late 1800s.

Orienteering, especially popular in America with the Boy Scouts, challenges you to quickly navigate rough terrain using only a map and compass. Developed from Swedish military training in the 1890s and quickly popularized in Norway and Finland, this sport was brought to America by Swedish-American inventor Björn Kjellström. After learning about orienteering today, try it for yourself in FDR Park! The Delaware Valley Orienteering Association created maps of our park available to borrow. If you can master map and compass, you’ll be treated to a tour of the park’s most historic, picturesque sites. 

This exhibition is supported by grants from the ASHM Auxiliary, Midsommarklubben, SWEA New Jersey, SWEA Philadelphia, and an anonymous foundation. Support provided by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. Funding for the American Swedish Historical Museum is supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.