As this will be my last blog post I decided to share all that I have learned from my internship experience and the museum. during the semester not only have I learned what it is like to work at a cultural museum, but have a crash course on what it is like to do oral history.

What I Have Learned from a Cultural Museum

Before this experience I knew almost nothing about the Swedish culture and what the Swedish people are like. However, while working at the museum I had the pleasure of interviewing immigrants and meeting volunteers and interns from Sweden. Not only are the people of Sweden practical (see week five), but they are also welcoming and more than willing to share their culture.

What I Have Learned about Oral History

Oral history can be a lot harder than it looks. I think the most challenging part of the entire process was transcribing the entire interview because it is very tedious work that needs an eye for detail. While writing these interviews ever pause, conjunction, and pronunciation matter because it crucial to be as accurate as possible. I also learned that once the interview is transcribed it doesn’t necessarily mean that your work is done. For several of my interviews, having a follow up was necessary to make sure that all Swedish terms and phrases were correct and that all the information was accurate. By the end of this semester I had much more respect for those who do this professionally because the whole process could be tedious at times.

Oral history can also be challenging because it requires the interviewer to be adaptable and flexible. In order to get the most information out of each person it was critical that I adapted to each personality and story. I remember during one interview  I had trouble getting my subject to speak at length about certain topics of the US because she had little experience with this country.During the interview I decided that it would be a good idea to switch topics from the US to Sweden because she had lived her whole life in Sweden. Once I switched the topic it was clear that she became much more comfortable and started to talk more at length. On the other hand, I also had people  who can’t stop talking no matter what. During these situations it was clear that in order to do the interview in a timely matter it was best to select which question were the most important rather than ask all of them. Despite all of these challenges it was rewarding to hear the stories of these people who were clearly proud of their Swedish heritage. I will definitely come back to the museum soon, hopefully as a volunteer or a visitor




Today was my last day at the museum so instead of working on transcribing I worked on another assignment for my supervisor which was to make “short stories” of the people I interviewed to feature in our Flaggan (a Flaggan is the Swedish term for newsletter). In these short stories I feature the interviewee’s immigration process and their lives in America. One of these stories included Joan Asplund whose parents immigrated to America in the early 1920s. It was also important that I focused most of the attention away from myself and focused it on Joan. The story is featured below:


Joan Asplund was born on April 26, 1941 on the Southside of Chicago and currently works as a desk receptionist at the museum. She is a second generation American Swede who is especially proud of her parents who emigrated from Sweden to Chicago. Her father came from Ängesbyn, which is in the northern part of Sweden, in 1923. In Sweden he lived on his family’s farm making cross country skis for a living. When he came to America, he translated his work on skis to carpentry to become a contractor. While working as a contractor, Joan’s father helped build the subway system in Chicago and made beautiful homes in North Shore that can still be seen today. Joan’s mother came to Ellis Island in 1924 from Götenberg. Due to some issues, Joan’s mother was immediately married on Ellis Island to her first husband Henry. After her Ellis Island marriage, Joan’s mother was allowed to come into the country where she worked as a nanny. While growing up in Andersonville, Joan participated in several Swedish traditions such as the St. Lucia ceremony with the Vårbcomman children’s program in Lakeview. She has particularly fond memories of Andersonville during Christmas time when all the families would come to her home and enjoy a smorgasbord of Swedish foods such as syltas and risgryns gröt.

 Joan has taken several trips back to Sweden over her lifetime. Her first trip was in the late 50s when her family went on a rundtur (round tour) of Sweden visiting relatives. One of Joan’s favorite memories of this trip was when the family was staying on her father’s farm which was only fifty miles away from the Artic Circle. Since they were in this part of the country during summer, the sun never set which meant that Joan and her family enjoyed an endless amount of energy. During her round tour Joan stayed up many nights going out dancing with her female relatives. She took another trip to Sweden and Europe with a friend in 1965. One of her favorite parts of this visit was seeing the fjords of Norway. During her interview, Joan described them as the most magnificent things she had ever seen and highly recommends that anyone visiting Europe should see them. Her brother, George, also took another trip to Sweden in 1967, hoping to buy a Volvo and tour the country as an independent young man. Both Joan and her brother were both pleasantly surprised that their distant Swedish relatives were more than happy to have her brother stay with them. Joan is also trying to keep the Swedish heritage and culture alive by practicing with the Nordic folk dancers and attending events at the museum.

Joan was interviewed by Andrea Marshall who is an intern at the museum. She is a junior  at Loyola University of Chicago for the past four months and has been working on an oral history project focusing on Swedish immigration to America. For this project she interviewed various members of the museum who immigrated to America from Sweden or whose parents have immigrated to America. During the interviews she asked them about the challenges they faced during the immigration process and to compare certain aspects of American and Swedish culture.

Week 12

Since it is almost time for me to leave my internship, I have mostly been wrapping up my work at the museum. My supervisor, Karin, was hoping to feature some of my work in the annual Christmas newsletter, so I have been working on writing a summary of myself and the people I have interviewed. Karin explained to me that she wants me to take the raw transcripts and turn them into stories that can be presented in the newsletter so people can understand the oral history project better.

I also had the opportunity to do some other things outside of oral history today since the museum is working on a new gallery that features Swedish folk paintings from the early 19th century. These paintings were originally donated to the Art Institute which were then passed on to the Swedish American Museum. These paintings featured two main categories which were ceremonies such as weddings and biblical scenes. These paintings were fascinating because they showed the mindset of rural Swedish people over a hundred years ago. Many of the people in the biblical scenes are not wearing ancient clothing, but clothes from the 19th century which really showed how little these people knew about ancient cultures or history in general.

I would also like to think that these paintings also show why I would like to work in a museum some day because many of the artifacts would remind me  why I studied history and why I love it so much.

Some Challenges of Oral History

Doing oral history can be a lot harder than it sounds sometimes . Whenever I describe what I’m doing at the museum, it sounds fairly straight forward. I interview the person, then write down what they what. But what if you don’t understand what the interviewee is saying? I found this happened several times during the semester especially because sometimes my interviewees would use Swedish words or phrases during the interview. Since I am not fluent in Swedish this became a pretty big problem. In order to solve this problem, it was imperative that I had a follow up interview asking the interviewee what the phrase meant and how it was supposed to be spelled. I thought it might be interesting to share some of the words and phrases I learned how to pronounce and spell. They are sorted into certain categories.


Sylta- a specific course in Christmas Eve smorgasbord. There are two types of syltas, pres sylta and kalv sylta.

Filbunke- a type of Swedish yogurt that is similar to Greek yogurt

Risgrynsgrot- rice porridge








I hope you had fun trying to pronounce some of those words. With all of these challenging words to figure out, I thought I would pick up a treat form the Swedish Bakery down the street as a reward.



Week 9

I haven’t blogged recently because I haven’t been doing anything new at the museum lately. So far, all I have done for the past two weeks or so is nothing but transcribing. Since a big theme in this blog is the process of oral history I thought I would show another step which is the final product. Below is a sample of the work i have done so far which is an interview of a woman named Karin. (I’ve mentioned her earlier) In this interview she talks about her immigration to America and her thoughts on Andersonville and America.

Note: You might notice in the interview that there are some tiny gaps when she mentions a Swedish term or phrase. Some of there are missing because i did not know how to spell them.



Karin Anner

Interviewed 10/3/2013

Interviewed by Andrea Marshall

Alright, so first things first. Let’s start off with, what is your name?

Karin Anner in Swedish

OK and can you spell that please?


OK and what is your date of birth?

July 18 1974

OK. And where were you born?

In Gottenburg, Sweden

OK. Thank you. Um, OK, so when did you immigrate?

In 2009. That was five years ago.

OK and what was your first impression when you first came to America? What sort of differences did you notice?

Well, um, it was everything was a lot bigger and everything was extremely loud. It looked kind  of worn down a little bit and so many people, so many cars, huge highways, freeways. And yeah…it was huge and large and a little bit scary.

That does sound very overwhelming.


So did you come alone or with friends or family?

I came with my husband

OK so you were married before you came?

Yeah. Um, married in 2003 in Sweden in Swedish.

OK. And you mentioned this in you email briefly but just for the record, what was the cause of your immigration?

It was his work, he’s an engineer who worked at the Swedish office for an Italian company then they asked if we wanted to move to Australia, so we moved to Australia and in Australia, they asked if we wanted to move to Chicago, so we moved to Chicago

So, what parts of Sweden did you immigrate from?

From Gottenbutg, from the East coast.

OK and that’s an urban area

Yeah it is.

OK and um does that city have any characteristics or traits that are unique to the rest of the country? A lot like how Chicago,  it’s known for…deep dish pizza, stuff like that…

Yeah it is actually. Gottenburg is the second largest city in Sweden and we always have, like, a little banter going on with people from Stockholm, we don’t like each other, so  that’s one thing. And it’s known for a term which in Sweden is ??? which in translated might be funny ?  or something like that, and it’s kind of known as a nice friendly city with a lot of people making jokes and just being in a down to earth city and we’re also famous for amazing seafood and because it’s right on the West coast it’s a lot of fishing going on and um, yeah…I think that’s it. Pretty much, I think, yeah.

OK. So when you first came here what was the hardest part? What did you struggle with?

When we first came? We struggled with, I mean, with the size of everything. I struggled a lot with the sound, the noise levels. I didn’t feel safe at the beginning because, you know, you read a lot and you  watch TV and everything and I was kind of  freaked out at first  by the news because I thought, oh maybe people are walking around with guns, now .I don’t think that anymore but I struggled a lot with those kinds of things. Then we also had the big bureaucracy in this country is crazy. So trying to get a drivers license and to…getting a phone was pretty easy because I have a prepaid card I couldn’t get a real one because I don’t have a social security number since I don’t work everything, kind of…so the bureaucracy was really hard, I had to get a drivers license, I had to go to the social security office to get a paper that  said that, oh this woman she can’t have a social security number, so I had to have that, then I had to go to the DMV and then present this paper that, oh, you can see here, I’m not allowed to have a social security number. Oh, OK, well, how do we deal with this? You know, everything was kind of a mess at the start.

Yeah sounds very, uh, very confusing.

Yes it was. Also, um, to get bank accounts, credit cards, it took us, I think, two years before we could have a credit card. We could have a debit card but not a credit card since we don’t have a credit history. So things like that are really annoying and confusing.

So, how did you pay for things?

Well, we got our debit card…I mean, the first time we used our Swedish bank accounts and Australian…since we lived there for a while. So yeah, it was really hard at the beginning

So, since you moved from Sweden to Australia, and then from Australia to America, um, I mean , in comparison from America to Sweden, what do you think Australia is like compared to the other two countries?

Australia is…I mean it’s…I wouldn’t say it’s like Sweden…it’s very easy to live in Australia. I mean, there’s bureaucracy there too but it’s not as bad as here

Is it just a more laid back country?

Yeah it is. And …yeah. It kind of feels like this…people are friendly, everyone’s laid back. It’s just like, well it doesn’t matter, it’s OK, we’ll fix it some other time. It’s calm and relaxed I guess.

Do you think that America is more uptight?

Yeah, a little bit. Especially with all these people who have, like, a little bit of power and have a uniform and have a little hat and they have all the power to tell you , oh, you have to stand behind that line or you have to go there and it’s just…if you don’t do as they say they get so angry with you…it’s like, OK OK. You didn’t see that in Australia and you didn’t see that in Sweden as well…not as much, I should say.

Uh, so you said that you live close to the museum, do you live in Andersonville?


OK. And how long have you lived in Andersonville?

For a year.

OK. And do you think, um, when you’re walking around Andersonville and you see the museum and the bakery and Ebenezer Lutheran Church, do you think that this neighborhood, uh, has the essence of Sweden at all?


Not at all?

Not at all, actually. No, it feels very American. The thing is that there’s  a lot of Swedish flags more than any street in Sweden, but, no, it doesn’t feel like home. I mean, the houses are different, the streets are different, all these restaurants and pubs all around here, we don’t have that many in Sweden I guess, not the same place anyway. No…

Does it feel like just another extension of Chicago basically?



But with a nice  little twists, I mean, I feel more at home here than before we lived over down in Old Towne Lincoln Park and I feel more at home here because it’s a little bit slower, I guess, it’s people are nice and friendly and it’s kinda quiet and relaxed sort of environment . And, yeah, I feel more comfortable than I did here than in Old Towne Chicago.

OK. So, how do you find a balance between, at first between Swedish culture and American lifestyle?

Well, I think it’s not that different. I mean the Swedish lifestyle is so influenced by the American lifestyle. I mean, it’s not hard to live here for a Swedish person but, I mean I try to…I need to have some Swedish stuff, like some Swedish foods and things like that, but they’re kind of easy to find here so I can’t find everything, but I can find  the essential things and  that’s good. So, and otherwise we embrace parts of the American culture, and we love eating brunch or going out to dinner, it’s so expensive in Sweden so here we go out to eat more. I mean, it’s not a problem at all, we kind of adapt.

Yeah. So, what did you do for a living in Sweden?

I was an engineer. I worked as a product developer for SKF, it’s the world’s largest manufacturer of bowler bearings which I worked for five years

OK. And I know that’s very interesting because I know that in America it’s a very male dominated career, is it the same way in Sweden?

Yes it is.

I thought it was very interesting because Sweden is supposed to be very gender egalitarian.

But it isn’t.

It really isn’t?

No, it isn’t. I mean we try, and I think we make progress all the time, but it’s still there, the differences. Yes, I studied at university, I studied mechanical engineering, we were 250 people in my year and we were twelve girls.

Wow. That’s a big difference.

Yes it is. And when I started at SKF, they actually tried to get more women. They really try hard and they try to recruit young women with engineering experience. So, when I was hired I was kind of, like, in a little network. We were eight people, then we were four women and four men because they always tried, it looked good in their papers if they hired equal amounts of men and women. But then, when I didn’t belong to that network anymore and we kind of bog out into reality, it’s usually maybe ten percent, fifteen percent women.

OK. And when were you in engineering school?

Uh, kind of a long run there. Between 1994 and 2002.

2002. So, do you think that things have changed at all?

Yeah, a little bit. I think it’s also about how the education has adapted. So, of course, mechanical engineering is the most male but you can think about it pretty much. But, those who study chemical engineering and they had chemical engineering with biology, that’s more fifty percent women. So the schools adapted as well. But, I think, yeah, they work all the time in the universities as well to attract more women to engineering. So they adapt the courses, the classes you can take.

Interesting. So, have you gone back to Sweden?


And do you have family or relatives still there?


OK. Who still lives there?

Everyone pretty much. My mom and dad, brother, who doesn’t live in Sweden anymore he lives in England, my in-laws, my sister-in-law and her family…yeah and then cousins and aunts and uncles.

So, when you go back to your family, have they noticed anything different about you since you’ve come back?

Yeah a little bit. I think they don’t say much but, for example, when my mom and dad when they were here visiting us, they’ve visited three times I think, we always go together with them and they always say, oh, you have to come down or you have to wait for us because you’re so used to traveling now and we’re not, so please wait for us. So that’s one thing, it’s not such a huge deal for us anymore to travel the world, but it still is for them. So that’s one thing my mom said, and she also, something stupid, it’s, I was going to buy my parents lunch in Gottenburg a couple years ago and I was thinking of where to go, of what restaurant to choose and I started to say aloud some restaurants and my mom said, now I hear you now that you live abroad, and I’m just like why, because you only say the expensive restaurants, and I’m like, yeah, that’s the ones I know that are still there because all of the cheaper ones closed down, so that’s one thing, because you’re not up to date on everything that happens. So that’s one things that’s noticeable when you come home and people talk about an artist or a song or something and you’re just like, OK, what is this?

Interesting. So are you a member or volunteer of any sort of Swedish networks or groups?

Yeah, I’m a volunteer here at the museum and I’m also in SVEA which is the Swedish Women for Education Association

OK. And you mentioned, I think, in your e-mail that you are part of the choir?


OK. And the choir is it hosted here?

Yeah, I mean, my husband and I we met at church, he’s the musical director, more like administrator I guess, but we rehearse here.

Where do they rehearse?

Downstairs in the gallery, Monday evenings.

Interesting. So, is the choir filled with lots of other Swedish immigrants?

Yes, lots and lots, no. We’re actually growing right now, we’re at fifteen or sixteen people and I would say ninety percent are Swedish and all of us, or the ones who are American have a strong connection to Sweden. And they speak a little bit of Swedish, so they have taken classes here at the museum or have a Swedish parent. One girl went to Sweden to study and met her husband and stayed for ten years and actually just came back

Oh, OK. So has interacting with other cultures in Chicago, has that changed the way you see yourself , or your immigration process or America?

I guess it has a little bit. Um, you start to notice differences between the cultures I guess when you hang out around Americans because you haven’t got a common base to stand on. When I talk to my husband, we watched the same TV shows when we were kids and things like that. You don’t have that in common with an American. So, things like that and some smaller things I guess. And you try to see yourself, I try to look at myself through another person’s eyes, and it’s OK I’m probably very Swedish because of the things I say and the things I think and things that are important to me. So I guess yeah, it’s changed me a little bit.

OK. And about your citizenship process? Are a citizen now?


Not at all?  OK.  So are you living on a green card or…

Just a visa

OK. And would you be interested in that or not at all?

Uh, I’m not interested in becoming a citizen. We are now just in the process of thinking, should we get a green card? Because our visa expires in two years and we have to make a decision.

OK and you talked about how the bureaucracy in America, it’s very difficult. Has that also affected your decision?

Yeah, a little bit, but the thing is that the company my husband works for they handle all this stuff with the visa. We had to provide a lot of papers, a lot of information but they do a lot of the dirty work, which is good for us because otherwise I would definitely think not. And I hear friends who are applying for green cards, they just go crazy. There’s so much to do, everyone just has to have a lawyer to help them

So do you think you’ll be living in America for a much longer time?

I’m not sure actually.


I mean, as I said some things are good and easy to embrace, some are not as good and it’s hard to see them get older and. And I really…I think we’ll move back actually ‘cause it’s hard also to be that far away from family, my parents are getting older and I can’t afford to see them that much and not being to help.

OK.  And you mentioned that a lot of Sweden, it’s very influenced by American culture…


Do you think that, uh, the Swedish language and culture, do you think it’s dying out or slowly going away?

I don’t think it is, but sometimes, yeah, sometimes I’m a little concerned actually because they have so much, like, American TV shows and American movies and music and sometimes, I mean, we get a lot of English and American expressions that people start to use in their daily language and I’m not sure that just positive sometimes I think, can’t it be Swedish? And sometimes I get really, I’m kind of stupid that way I guess, I get really irritating, irritated sometimes in Sweden, like, in the city just walking along in the mall or something and there’s commercials, and they’re Swedish commercials for Swedish companies but they are in English and that just annoys me ‘cause I’m just like, well, we have the words in Swedish, why don’t you use them? But it’s cooler.

Interesting. It’s cooler to use English?

Yeah it is. Somehow it is. I guess it shows that you’re more an international person and you’ve broadened your views and belong more in the world and just in little Sweden. Yeah it’s cool, I mean, a lot of people that we meet in Sweden that we don’t know that much they ask us, oh, it must be so cool to live in Chicago! How is it? And we’re just like, well, it’s home there too, we live kind of a similar life in Chicago, but yeah, it’s different, but they think it’s so cool to live in America and I’m just like, eh, it’s not that great. At the beginning I thought it was cool, we were just like, oh, I’m in Chicago, I live in Chicago and now I’m just like, it’s not that cool.

So, you were talking about how Swedish commercials would be in English, do you think that it’s important to pass on the Swedish language to the next generation?

Yeah, I think so actually or I’m talking about if we had kids I would definitely teach them Swedish because it’s good to something else.


I mean, it’s good to know that there are other cultures that do things another way and have a different mind set a little bit and it’s good to know that. It makes you more of an accepting person I guess. So yeah I think it’s important.

So, you said that you’ve brought some items with you today?

Yeah, I did. I just brought three photographs just because I wanted to show you how I felt when we moved here. And how I feel every time we usually go back to Sweden in the summer because that’s when Sweden is the best. So, and it’s always kind of hard for me to come back. This is what I left this summer. This is our summer home, our family summer home and this is on one of the islands outside my husband and I were kayaking. This is what we left, it’s quiet, it’s beautiful and then we came back to this…

Oh my…

So that’s kind of the contrast I was talking about. It’s just loud and a lot of cars, a lot of stuff just going on and it’s like OK, woah.

OK. So this picture here, where is this?

It’s on the west coast. It’s a place called ????, this place it’s a little island called ??? and it’s in the province, or what do you say, of ????, it’s maybe two hours north of Gottenburg where I used to live. You, know half of Sweden goes there for their summer vacations, but we were there at the end of August and it was so quiet and there was no one there and just beautiful.

Yeah, I definitely think this represents the chaotic transition. So, what is Gottenburg like? Is it like this (points to picture of Sweden) or like this? (points to picture of Chicago)

It’s like this (points to Chicago). It’s not as loud.

Oh, OK.

It’s not as bad .It’s not as loud, you can sit on the sideboard, on the café and talk to each other and here it’s too loud. Gottenburg, it’s a large city, it’s probably 500,000 people and  it still has a small town feel to it.

Yeah, so that’s very interesting. So, I was talking to a person who I previously interviewed on Sunday and so when I asked her to bring an item she brought a potato peeler. And she said that, um, the potato peeler represented the Swedish people because this particular model she had with her was very simple, you know, it didn’t even have a rubber handle, it was just a simple metal tool, when you put it in your drawer it doesn’t matter if it looks nice in your kitchen and she said that it’s very practical and that the Swedish people are, they’re very practical. Do you agree with that?



Yeah, I do. One comment, most of the people.

Most of the people? OK

 There are some people who try to be a bit more a little more flashy and they get a lot of attention in the media at the same time as you can hear in the tone of my voice we kind of look like, OK, we just want you to be someone. It’s a little bit like, frowned upon.

To be flashy?

Yeah, and to try to be better than another person. Very much like everything and everyone is alike and that’s how we grew up. You don’t want to be seen, you don’t want to stand out in the crowd, you just want to be the crowd.

Do you think that people in America are like that? They just want to blend in?


No. They try really hard to stand out more?

Yeah, to get noticed, yeah.

That’s very interesting.

I mean, Sweden…it’s probably different generations as well. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and it was, Sweden was very socialist, it was so, almost communist really, but it was more like this, we’re all together and we care for each other. Now, people that are a little bit younger are taught a little bit more to stand out. And I think that’s a little bit, like we talked about before, about the American culture because it kind of feels like the American culture is more egocentric and the Swedish culture we’re all together. Yeah, it was something we talked about this summer, it was something going in Sweden, it was about cancer treatment, it was in the news and that cancer patients in Gottenburg did not have as many cancer doctors as they do in Stockholm so the reporters on the news said, “well, that’ s not fair, everyone should have, like, equal amounts of doctors to see.” And we just talked about that would never happen in America. No one would ever say that’s not fair, I mean, the doctors would say OK, I have a better market in Gottenburg, I’ll move there, that’s where the money is. That would never happen in Sweden, everybody just complains “it’s not fair, it’s not fair. It’s very important for Sweden, for Swedish people that everything should be fair when you can buy yourself out of stuff.

Um, I can’t remember where I heard this, maybe it was the Olympics, is it true that when people in Sweden, when they get some sort of ticket they are charged according to their income? Is that true?

I don’t know actually. It wouldn’t surprise me that much, but  I don’t know actually.

Oh, OK.

But, why not?

Yeah, I mean, it definitely goes with this concept of being fair, being equal, everybody is on the same level.

That’s one thing that is totally different here in America, that if you have money everything is fine, if you don’t everything is horrible. In Sweden, well, some people who have a horrible life, but it’s not that bad. It doesn’t have to be that bad because you have a basic security that we don’t have here in America. Especially with the American shut down.

Oh gosh, the American shut down…do you think that would ever happen in Sweden?


Actually in the previous interview, Beata talked about how she feels that the Swedish politics, that it’s more honest than American politics, that they truly believe in what they’re  advocating for and it’s not just about being reelected, obviously they want to represent their party well, but, um, you think that Swedish government is better?

Uh, , I mean yeah, obviously there are some rougher things in Swedish politics as well, I think that I trust them more because I usually know that they’re not bored. There’s not much money involved. I mean, here, I don’t trust the senators because I know, oh, he has a lot of stock in that company or I mean, the people pay senators to vote for them or a company votes so they get something good out of it and that doesn’t happen in Sweden, so in that case, yeah, I trust them more I would say so.

Yeah, that’s very interesting.

It’s different, it’s all about money. Here, in America, it’s all about money. I mean, it’s not as much in Sweden.

Yeah, I mean, because it’s a capitalist government so it would be run by whoever has the most money. So, that’ a very big difference

Yeah, it’s huge and it’s kinda hard to adapt because I still think like a Swede and I’m not sure what to thing. The right wing in Sweden they’re more liberal than the democrats here, so it’s, even the right wing in Sweden they’re, like, socialists.

So, yeah, is there anything else you would like to add? Anything you fell I missed?

Hmmm…no I don’t think so.

OK Great.

Hope you had what you wanted

Yeah, so thank you for coming and if you feel you remember anything as soon as you walk out the door feel free to give me an e-mail anytime.


Week 8


This week the museum was a little hectic because the gala was this Saturday so everyone was busy setting up last minute details.

I also interviewed another person this week. Her name was Joan and she typically works at the front desk of the museum. Joan was a little different from my other interviewees because unlike everyone else, her parents immigrated from Sweden and she and  her brother were born in America. Joan was a very talkative lady. Most of my interviews last up to forty minutes but this interview lasted almost an hour and a half. This will be a lot of transcribing later but I’m up for the challenge.

Here are a few interesting facts about Joan and her family from Sweden:

1.  Her father made cross country skis in Northern Sweden only fifty miles away from the Arctic circle. Because they lived so far north there would be parts of the year when the sun never set because of this they would have a lot of energy this time of year. Cross country skis were also the majority of his transportation

2. Her father translated his work on skis into carpentry work in America and built some beautiful homes in North Shore  that can still be seen today.

3. Joan participated in her Swedish heritage by being St. Lucia in the Lucia ceremony. Lucia typically wears seven white candles in her hair while serving Lucia buns during Christmas.

4. As a kid, Joan and her brother would eat Swedish yogurt with sugar and ginger. Apparently, ginger is nature’s natural antibiotic so Joan and her brother never got sick as kids.

As I said earlier, this will take quite a while to transcribe but i am up for the challenge.


week 7

The Process of Oral History

Whenever I interview people they usually ask me what the interview is for and how they are part of the big picture. Over the past year the museum has been trying to build up an oral history archive based off of previous interns’ work and my work. They hope that other interns will come and eventually add to the information we have now.

One of my supervisors, Veronica, is helping to insure the quality work of future interns by writing a “run down” which includes an entire set of instructions and process of how to do oral history. Her “run down” was based off of previous interns work and research on oral history that she found off the Smithsonian museum web site. She wanted me to see review this run down and get my feedback on it. The following is the collaboration of her research:

Identify individual/s willing to be interviewed

Set up a date and time for the interview (off-site or on-site, quiet location, about 1-2 hours for set up and interview.)

If possible, inform the interviewee about the consent form and biographical form, ask if they would be willing to bring copies of photos they might talk about and/or if it would be possible to take a picture of them to include in their file. (or if they can bring copies that we can keep in their file.)

Conduct any preliminary research needed prior to the interview – this may involve reading up on a subject a little or simply talking to Museum staff about the interviewee and getting a sense of what topics they might want to discuss in the interview. 

Review/prepare the list of interview questions and topics for the interview (these are broad, jumping-off points, “essay” type questions, but feel free to let the interview go where it will.)

It may be helpful to verify the appointment a few days ahead with the interviewee.

The Interview

Make sure you choose a quiet place to perform the interview so it will be easier to hear on the recording.  Take a moment to listen for background noises such as ticking clocks or traffic.

Make sure the interviewee understands the purpose of the interview; it is not a private conversation, but is intended for use in research and exhibits (see above, consent form.)

Have the interviewee sign the consent form and fill out the bibliographic form.

Start each recording with who, what, when and where you are interviewing.

Listen actively to the interviewee

Allow silence on the recording, and give the interviewee time to think, silence will likely help you as you are transcribing later.

Ask one question at a time and follow up thoroughly on each one (feel free to ask the interviewee to elaborate: “could you explain X?” “what do you mean by X?”  “Could you please elaborate on X?”

Limit interviews to about 1-2 hours in length to avoid fatigue. You can always schedule a second interview if necessary or if the interviewee is interested to do so.

After the interview, make field notes about the interview (as quickly as possible afterward.) note impressions of the interview, add details that may help future researchers understand the interview.  Was the interviewee nervous? Was this your first interview? How did you feel it went? Did you have trouble getting them to speak at length? Were there topics they seemed excited about? Were there subjects they referenced that corroborated or disagreed with other interviews? Etc.

If possible, write the interviewee a thank-you note. (Museum Staff?)

Listen to the interview and carefully transcribe it.

Analyze the interview. Did you get what you need? Are there unanswered questions from the interview that you could investigate in the follow-up? Are there improvements you can make to you interview methods? Questions you should consider using in the future? Etc.

Send transcription to interviewee for spelling corrections (people and place names, mainly) or schedule a second meeting where they can go through the transcript and correct in person.

Correct spellings and add notes (if interviewee gave additional comments on the transcript)**

Give any hardcopy material to the Curator and save the interview audio file and transcription in the appropriate folder on the Common Drive.

If the interviewee asks, we can get them a copy of the interview transcript and possibly of the audio file.  See the Curator for details.

As you can see, the whole process of oral history can be a lot harder and time consuming than it looks. So, far I am still figuring this process out especially in terms of the “follow up”. i have not had anyone come back for a follow up and it may be something that I want to work on for the future.

Week 6

I know that I’m a bit behind on my blogging so I hope to make that up right now! Almost immediately after I interviewed Beata I had another interviewee named Karin (not to be confused with my supervisor). I thought it was interesting how although I asked Karin very similar questions to my previous interviewee I had completely opposite answers. This was probably because Beata has stayed in America for quite some time while Karin has only been here for three years.

Just for some background information Karin came here in 2009 with her husband due to a job transfer. Overall, her transition from Sweden to America was pretty rough because it was fairly overwhelming and frustrating. For example, when she first got here she wasn’t allowed to have a credit card for a whole year because she had not established credit in the country yet. Karin also explained that when she first came to Chicago she went in to sensory overload because she was not used to the sights and sounds of living in such a congested city. She showed a really good example of this when she showed me two photos, one of which was a picture of her lake house in Sweden and the other a picture at the intersection of Berwyn and Broadway streets. The first picture is serene with the ocean and a cabin while the other is a bustling street filled with cars, bicycles and pedestrians. Although Karin has enjoyed her stay in America she has not considered citizenship because she misses her parents who still live in Sweden.

So far, I have been CRAZY BUSY with transcribing interviews and it probably adds to the chaos already that the museum is in fundraising mode by hosting a gala in a few weeks. Because of this I take occasional breaks from my desk to help set up tables or send invitations. Tomorrow I will have another interview with the owner of Simon’s Tavern which should be fun!

Week 5

I have finished my fifth week at the museum and I am proud to announce that I have finally conducted my first interview this last Sunday! My interviewee’s name is Beata Krakus who happens to have a daughter who goes to the Swedish school that the museum hosts every other weekend. I thought Beata particularly fascinating because her parents originally immigrated From Poland to Sweden due to political persecution. Because of her mixed background of Polish and Swedish she is trilingual in English , Polish and Swedish.

We covered a wide variety of topics during the interview such as her Polish background, her process of becoming an American citizen, Andersonville and comparing Swedish culture with American culture. In this post I will highlight some of my favorite parts about this interview.

I think my favorite part of the interview was when I asked her in advance to bring any photos or items that she felt would be significant. When I asked her what she brought with her she pulled a potato peeler out of her purse. Obviously, I was very confused why she brought cooking items to the interview so I asked her if she cared to explain. She explained that in her opinion a simple potato peeler could represent the Swedish people because it is a simple pragmatic tool. This particular peeler was a very popular model in Sweden and lacked any special bells or whistles, in fact, it didn’t even have a rubber handle for a better grip. This overlooked and simple tool represented an entire nation of people because much like the peeler they are practical and down-to-earth.

I think this part of the interview shows that when I am meeting with all these different people there will be some parts that I cannot expect despite all of my preparations. I think it also shows how important it is to be adaptable in different situations.

When i come back to the museum this Tuesday I will be working on transcribing this interview which I know will be a labor intensive process but a worthwhile one.  I also have another interview set up for this Thursday so in a matter of a few days I will be up to my eyeballs in questions and transcribing.

week 4

It was a very quiet week at the museum so I thought it would be a good opportunity to give a tour of our gallery as I promised on my last post. Our gallery includes a wide variety of photos, posters, costumes, instruments and many other things that depicts the life of a Swedish immigrant in America.


Allow me to introduce you to the Karl Karlson family. They are arriving to New York for the first time in 1894. The first thing they will see from their long voyage is the Statue of Liberty. They will be processed in the new federal immigration facility, Ellis Island which is only two years old. New York is not their last stop. In a few days they will arrive by train to Chicago!




Allow my to introduce you to Charles R Walgreen, the founder of Walgreen’s drugstore. Walgreen was the son of a Swedish immigrant, Charles R Walgreen Sr. Shown below Mr Walgreen is a picture of the first Walgreen’s at 4134 Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago. By 1913, there were four stores on the South side of Chicago. Today, Walgreen’s is a billion-dollar company.



Here is a map of the immigration patterns of Chicago in 1950. The multiple colors and patterns represent different countries. The yellow represents the German community, the pink represents the Norwegians, and the teal represents the Swedish population. There were many other countries mentioned such as Mexico, Japan, China,Russia and Greece.



I bet you also didn’t know that there is a children’s immigration museum upstairs…


In this part of the museum the kids can pretend that they live in agricultural 1870s Sweden. They can pretend to milk the cow or hang clothes on the line.


Another fun part of the kid’s museum ( and my personal favorite) is that the kids can look at books translated into Swedish. There are English translations  also provided.

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