National Nordic Museum's Executive Director honored with Royal Norwegian Order of Merit

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National Nordic Museum's Executive Director honored with Royal Norwegian Order of Merit
Under Nelson's leadership, the National Nordic Museum earned national and international recognition.

SEATTLE, WA.- On July 18, His Majesty King Harald V of Norway awarded the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, Knight First Class, to Executive Director/CEO Eric Nelson for his longstanding work advancing Norwegian-American relations. The honor was presented to Nelson by Norway's Ambassador to the United States Anniken R. Krutnes during a ceremony at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle. In attendance was Governor Jay Inslee, Viggo Forde, Honorary Consul of Norway for the Pacific Northwest, and more than 300 supporters and friends of the Museum.

“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. “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.”

Under Nelson's leadership, the National Nordic Museum earned national and international recognition. 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; the following year the Museum earned national designation by an Act of Congress becoming the National Nordic Museum.

“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,” said Honorary Consul Viggo Forde.

In addition to collecting objects of cultural and historical significance and presenting internationally important exhibitions, the National Nordic Museum serves as a convener on critical issues including innovation in the Nordic region and United States, economic development, environmental policy, cultural identity, and societal issues. 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.”

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.

Eric Nelson, Executive Director/CEO

Eric Nelson joined the National Nordic Museum as Executive Director/CEO in January 2008, where he has overseen the expansion of the Museum into a nationally and internationally recognized center for sharing Nordic culture, values, and innovation. He has been honored with the rarely awarded Hazelius Medal in Gold by Sweden’s Nordiska Museet, the only non-Swedish citizen to receive the recognition. In 2022, he was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame.

Nelson is a graduate of the prestigious Getty Museum Leadership Institute and holds a Master of Art degree in History. He has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Washington, California State University, and Sacramento and San Francisco State University. A native of Napa, California, Nelson previously served as Executive Director of the Napa Valley Museum from 1999 to 2007. Prior to this role, he was Curator of Exhibits and Collections and then Executive Director of the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa for eleven years.

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