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The History of Solvang, the Heritage of Denmark  
Past Exhibits

November 23 - February 16
From Danish Roots to California Colony

Debuting November 23 is a dynamic new exhibition, The Spirit of Solvang: From Danish Roots to California Colony. The exhibit celebrates Solvang’s early settlers who achieved the American Dream while honoring their Danish heritage and, in so doing, created the town we know today.

Meticulously restored black and white images from the museum collection tell the story of Solvang from its founding to its transformation into a tourist destination. Exhibition events include an evening of film clips spanning 55 years of Solvang memories; Solvang’s Kringle and Crown, an event celebrating Solvang’s baking history; and a class on How to Make Smørrebrød (Danish open face sandwiches). 

First Folk School (left) and Solvang Hotel (right) c. 1912

Visitors to Solvang are often curious about the origins of the picturesque downtown of half-timber Old World–style buildings and windmills. The story behind these facades dates back more than a century to when the Danish colony was established as the home for a traditional folk school on the West Coast of the United States. It was this tradition of life-long learning that would educate the new town’s young adults while maintaining the heritage, culture, and traditions of Denmark.

horse and wagon

Since 1820, more than 450,000 Danes have immigrated to the United States. By far the majority of these arrived between 1880 and 1915. This history of Danish immigration to America is detailed in the exhibition with displays that incorporate personal accounts of Solvang residents as well as data and statistics on Danish immigration. We are fortunate to have the panels which originated at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration in New York with research and development by Odense City Museums and museum director Torben Grøngaard Jeppesen, a leading authority on Danish immigration to the USA.

The exhibition remains on display through February 16, 2020.


Elverhøj Museum of History and Art is on the move with a pop-up gallery at the Montecito Bank and Trust, 591 Alamo Pintado Road.


Viking PaulElverhøj Museum of History & Art invites visitors to learn more about Scandinavian ancestors of long ago. The new Vikings! display includes stone age Danish tools, replica pieces, and weapons. Informative text and photographs tell of the Vikings’ role in history and in popular culture. For younger explorers, there is a hands-on display table and handouts about the Viking runic “alphabet.”  

“Viking” is a term used by modern scholars to refer to the Nordic-speaking peoples from southern Scandinavia who raided, traded and settled in Europe and the British Isles roughly between A.D. 793-1066. In addition to being the fierce warriors of popular stereotype, Vikings were sailors, shipbuilders, farmers, master artists, craftsmen, shrewd businessmen, and fearless explorers. Their activities stimulated political changes in Europe and Russia; created lasting new societies in Iceland and Greenland; and led to the discovery of North America 500 years before Columbus.

Viking axeThe museum has had the opportunity to add new artifacts to the existing collection. These items include a Viking era sword, an ornamental replica axe, and jewelry.

Schedule a private tour for your group or class by phoning (805) 686-1211 or email info@elverhoj.org.

History, someone has said, is the stories we tell ourselves.  In Elverhøj’s Solvang Room, the so-called Scrapbook on the Wall — a series of large panels of photos and text — tells the stories of Solvang from 1910 to the present. A team of talented people have worked together for many months to assemble this special exhibit.
Just as with a personal scrapbook, material for these history panels has come from a variety of sources. We have rummaged through Elverhøj’s records to find historical treasures: oral history tapes, family genealogies, old letters, personal reminiscences, the museum’s extensive photo collection, local newspaper clippings, school board records, event programs, souvenirs and memorabilia, published and unpublished histories of Solvang, student theses on Solvang, and more.

The World at War      Reinventing Solvang

People have shared their personal photo albums, scrapbooks, and stories with us. Organizations have donated information about themselves. Other museums have generously assisted. A UCSB intern and a Cal State researcher contributed some expertise. Even the Danish embassy got involved and furnished photos of Denmark’s royal family.
What you can now see is a series of important vignettes or stories about key milestones in Solvang’s history rather than a complete and definitive history. The history panels start with Danish immigration to America, progress through the founding and growth of Solvang, and in a generally chronological way, guide the viewer through stories about local culture, influential people, and events. You can also read about Solvang cowboys, how the automobile came to the Valley, how Solvang reinvented itself, the three visits from Danish Royalty, and learn about ring riding and hitting the cat out of barrel, among other things.
Funding generously provided by The Valley Foundation, The Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, MIS Associates, and Premier Imaging Products.


The Elverhøj Museum of History and Art encourages art exhibition proposal submissions from individual artists and artist groups. The guidelines are intended to help expedite the review of these submissions by insuring that each proposal is as complete as possible. Proposals for exhibitions at the Elverhøj must include both written and visual components.

A copy of the artist proposal guidelines is available for download.

Click to DownloadArtist Exhibition Proposal Procedures PDF (or DOC version)
Click to DownloadArtist GROUP Exhibition Proposal Procedures PDF (or DOC version)

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