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VASA NATIONAL ARCHIVES
Welcome from the President Of Vasa National Archives
Bishop Hill was founded as part of a Utopia on the Prairie 175 years ago by a group of Swedish immigrants, the Janssonists part of the great migration of Swedes to America in the 1840s following the crop failures across Europe. Bishop Hill survived the experiment and is a valuable part of our Swedish heritage in America. The Vasa Order of America chose to have its National Archives in this now small but historic town.
In Truth and Unity,
About the Archives
The purpose of the archives
The purpose, as described in the Incorporation Document, is for "Educational, historical and research to preserve and display and make available records, documents, works of art, science, inventions and manufacture by persons of Swedish ancestry and to promote public knowledge of an interest in the history of persons of Scandinavian and particularly Swedish ancestry." The main purpose is to preserve the records of the Vasa Order of America and its members. We have set up a Family register where all Vasa members and their families will be chronicled. The register is an important phase of our archival activities by assisting researchers find their ancestors. We aim at making the contents of the building interesting to all visitors. Therefore we have accepted a number of artifacts which relate to Swedish and Scandinavian immigrant history. These items provide visual and physical connections to past generations.
Microfilming the Vasa Archives
Microfilming the records of all Vasa lodges in U.S. and Canada was an especially valuable and pioneering project carried out by the Vasa Order of America. We completed this project in the 1990s. Copies of the films, over 32,000 feet or 500 boxes, are housed in the archive building. Vasa lodges and other researchers can request viewing the microfilms during normal operating hours.
After a successful fund raising drive, ground breaking took place on Nov. 23, 1973, and construction began. On June 5, 1974, many visitors from the US, Canada and Sweden attended the building dedication. A wide expanse of lawn and huge maple trees surround the building. The building's design complements existing buildings in the village. By the mid-1990s, technology and an ever-growing collection created a demand for a 20' x 30' extension to the original 30' x 50' building. The extension blends seamlessly into the original building. The Vasa emblem, in color, hangs above the front door. The American, Swedish and Canadian flags fly in front of the building.
The main exhibit room features changing exhibits focusing on Scandinavian countries and Scandinavian-American heritage. Currently, " A Swedish Sketch" exhibit explores 19th century Sweden and the causes of the five main immigration waves. Our other exhibit room features information on the Vasa Order's First Century, from a self-help Swedish organization to the modern format. The Vasa Order in Sweden and the Swedish government have appointed people to be the Swedish American of the Year since 1960. An attractive display of photographs and biographies of these honorees enhances the appearance of the room.
Our record rooms are not open to the public, but our staff will gladly bring you the materials you want. The records include minute books, programs, histories, regalia, art works and other materials transferred to our care by local, district and the Grand lodge material. A lot of our materials came from individual donors. The collections include books, newsletters, and other published materials. Our collection of yearly bound copies of the Vasa Star has several missing years. Anyone owning such bound copies, or even early singles, of the Vasa Star is urged to contact the Archives. Please contact us about transferring your records to the archives.
A large room on the lower level serves as a gathering place for groups of visitor and the local lodge meeting. This room features a full kitchen and an open space of approx. 30 x 40 feet. We have tables and folding chairs available for use as well. Reservation of this space costs $25/day. If you would like to reserve this space, please let us know.
The upper level contains our libraries, meeting room and a study room. Researchers are welcome to use these reference books. The Grandfather clock made and donated by Dr. Henry Lindquist, Harmony Lodge No. 465, tolls the passing hours. We also house a computer center, where Vasa History is transcribed from microfilm and original sources to a database.
Vasa members honor our departed sisters and brothers, and offer our help and sympathies to the survivors. We do this in many ways. We have memorial services at our District Convention and also in many Local Lodges. Frequently floral tributes are sent. Through the Vasa Order of America Archives, we have the opportunity to create a lasting memorial. Lodges, members, and friends of the departed one can send a cash memorial to the Archive in memory of a deceased person. In the Archive, we keep attractive memorial cards in a cabinet donated by Roy Nelson and Bertil Winstrom, and will forever preserve the memory of a loved one. The person making the donation will receive acknowledgement and the family will receive a memorial card. Any person or organization may convey a memorial. The person so honored need not necessarily be a Vasa member. The tax-deductible donation should be sent to our Archive Financial Secretary. Our Memorial Cards are most worthwhile and thoughtful. We often refer to them in assisting genealogical researchers. The Local Lodge Secretaries will be happy to transmit the donations to the Archive Financial Secretary. Revenue from the Memorial Cards helps perpetuate the activities of the Vasa Archive.
By Their Fruits
T. Edward Karlsson
One inestimable accomplishment of the Vasa Order is the creation of its own Archives Building here in this country where the history and accomplishments of the organization is unfolding among present and coming generations of Swedish-American ancestry. These Archives will without the slightest doubt become increasingly aware of the great need and outstanding value of having a central place where research can be made, studies of present and past aspects of the Order can be conducted, and valuable material of every pertinent kind may find a permanent place to stay. The Swedish-American generations born in this country will always feel close and rewarding bonds with "the Old Country" Sweden, but still and all America is the country of their birth and upbringing, and the identification and nearness with their own growth of Swedish-American awareness is immeasurably enhanced by having these Archives right in the middle of their own country. It certainly also is very commendable to have placed these Archives in Bishop Hill, a surrounding of outstanding Swedish-American and nationally recognized historical presence.
To share your family history with VASA Archives, click on the link below, print the form, fill it out and mail to VOA National Archives, PO Box 101, Bishop Hill IL 61419