MAPNA: Project, Partnerships, and Plan


Mapping Norwegian America (MAPNA) brings tgoether quantitative approaches to history and techniques of graphic presentation to portray an American ethnic history in a multicultural context.  Using data from national, regional, and local sources, MAPNA coordinates statistical methods with the technology of geographic information systems (GIS) to explore and present the Norwegian-American experience through numeric, graphic, cartographic, and photographic means along with interpretive commentary.  The primary result will be an Atlas of Norwegian-American History.

The project focuses on a defined segment of the American population in the interests of understanding the whole.  The portion of the American population now claiming Norwegian ancestry is in total larger than the current population of its ancestral homeland.  Norwegian-Americans are a diverse population due to staggered arrivals in the United States in different historical periods, to a history of internal migrations, and to concentrations in various regions including the upper midwest, the northwest, the west coast as a whole, and the southwest.  The Norwegian-American experience also offers the opportunity to examine the changes in time comprehended by an extended history, since mass migration of Norwegians to the United States began as early as 1825 and continued in statistically significant numbers until well into the twentieth century.   Emphases include demography, socio-economic characteristics, religious life, education, language use, evolving identities, land use, agricultural history, urban concentrations, and comparison with other ethnic groups.

In making data and findings about one piece of the American mosaic available, MAPNA and the Atlas of Norwegian-American History will add not only to the understanding of Norwegian-American history but will contribute to understanding how a modern can be composed of many ethnicities, religions, and cultures. 


The project is based at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and draws on the resources of its Center for Interdisciplinary Research (CIR), which is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.  The setting at St. Olaf also offers opportunities for undergraduate research.  St. Olaf also houses the archival collections of the Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA) as well as its own extended archival collection.  Together these collections offer the richest single archival resource in Norwegian-American history in the United States.

A partnership with the Minnesota Population Center (MPC) as the University of Minnesota provides access to both advanced demographic skills as well as the vast  range of data the center has gathered.  Collaboration with the MPC links MAPNA to the resources of the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS-USA and IPUMS-International).  The National Historical Geographical Information System (NHGIS), also lodged within the MPC provided cartographic advice and resources.  The NAHA and the University of Minnesota Press will cooperate in publishing the Atlas itself.

ESRI is a supportive and generous partner through grants of software and technical support.  Geodata AS of Norway has also granted valuable support and software.


Assembly of executive committee
Grant proposals

Trial projects and review
Revision of plan

Gathering and analysis of data
Summer undergraduate research projects

Production of graphics and text