Seattle National Nordic Museum director receives knighthood

Jul 20, 2023, 7:30 AM | Updated: 9:41 am

Seattle Nordic Museum...

National Nordic Museum Executive Director Eric Nelson (Photo from Nick Klein, courtesy of National Nordic Museum)

(Photo from Nick Klein, courtesy of National Nordic Museum)

The next time you go to the National Nordic Museum in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, you could meet an actual Knight. But odds are, he won’t be wearing shining armor.

His Majesty, King Harald the Fifth of Norway, presented Museum Executive Director Eric Nelson with the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, Knight First Class.

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During a ceremony July 18 in Seattle, His Majesty knighted “Sir” Nelson for what he called Nelson’s “longstanding work advancing Norwegian-American relations.”

Nelson joined the National Nordic Museum as Executive Director/CEO in January 2008, where he has overseen the expansion of the museum. Nelson led a successful $53 million campaign to build the award-winning and iconic building that now houses the museum’s collection of more than 80,000 objects. The museum received an outpouring of public acclaim upon the opening of its new building in May 2018 and was given the National designation by Congress in 2018.

He received Hazelius Medal in Gold by Sweden’s Nordiska Museet, the only non-Swedish citizen to receive the recognition, and in 2022, he was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame.

Norway’s Ambassador to the United States, Anniken R. Krutnes, actually presented the honor, witnessed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Viggo Forde, the Honorary Consul of Norway and several hundred supporters and friends.

“It is my great pleasure to congratulate Eric Nelson on receiving the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit from His Majesty King Harald V,” Ambassador Anniken R. Krutnes said at the ceremony. “This honor is awarded to individuals who have performed outstanding service in the interests of Norway — and Mr. Nelson has certainly done just that. I want to thank him for all he has accomplished.”

This award marks the third time that Nelson has received a knighthood from a Nordic Head of State. Nelson was previously named Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland by the President Sauli Niinistö of Finland and was awarded Knight First Class of the Royal Order of the Polar Star by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

During the ceremony, Forde said, “Eric’s contribution to the greater Nordic community in Seattle is immeasurable. His vision and leadership have resulted in a world-class museum located in our community. Today’s award is a recognition that his contributions are noticed not just locally but also by the Norwegian Royal House through the award of Officer of the Royal Order of Merit as Knight First Class.”

The museum presents more than 140 programs and exhibitions annually including U.S. premiere exhibitions, concerts, lectures, films, and educational events.

“I’m honored to receive this award on behalf of the National Nordic Museum and our community of supporters who made it possible to realize the dream of a new state-of-the-art Museum,” said Nelson. “This award celebrates the region’s Nordic community and close ties between the Pacific Northwest and Norway.”

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Seattle National Nordic Museum director receives knighthood