The Papers of Rolf Erickson | Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum Archives

Collection Overview

Title: The Papers of Rolf EricksonAdd to your cart.

ID: VMA/RG01/ARCH.Erickson,R

Primary Creator: Erickson, Rolf H. (1940-1992)

Extent: 6.0 Linear Feet. More info below.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

A collection of materials by Rolf Erickson related to Norwegian and Norwegian American artists, composers and music scores, oral interviews, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum fine art records and exhibition catalogs, programs, slides (photographs), and subject files.

Biographical Note

Rolf Herbert Erickson was born on November 18, 1940 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Of Norwegian-American ancestry, he was the son of Herbert and Ethel Ramseth Erickson. Rolf grew up in the small northeastern Wisconsin towns of Spruce and Oconto Falls and he graduated from Oconto Falls High School in 1958. He then enrolled at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota where he majored in English and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1962. It was at St. Olaf that Rolf learned the Norwegian language and first developed what would become an abiding and sustaining interest in Norwegian-American history and culture.

Following graduation from St. Olaf, Rolf travelled to Lae, Papua- New Guinea where he served for two years as an English teacher and librarian at the Bumayong Lutheran Mission School.

Upon returning to the United States, Rolf spent the 1964-65 school year as a librarian and English teacher at Random Lake High School in Random Lake, Wisconsin before enrolling at the University of Wisconsin School of Library Science in Madison in the Fall of 1965. In June 1966, he was awarded a Master of Arts in Library Science and on July 1, 1966 he joined the staff of the Northwestern University Library as a Reference Librarian. In 1967 he was appointed Administrative Assistant to Northwestern University Librarian Jens Nyholm, a position he held until 1970 when he was appointed Circulation Services Librarian at the Northwestern University Library, a position in which he served with distinction for the next twenty-two years.

It was at Northwestern that Rolf developed the dual career that engaged his interests as a profession librarian and as a scholar of the Norwegian-American experience.

For over two decades, in addition to running a superbly well- organized department with high staff morale and elan, Rolf implemented the Library's state-of-the-art, highly-automated circulation system and presided over the smooth and efficient circulation of the Library's three million volume collection. He was highly regarded among his peers--the circulation services librarians at other major academic and research libraries. But Rolf'service to the Northwestern University Library and to Northwestern University extended far beyond the effective management of circulation services. For over two decades he served as the public face of the University Library and was a familiar figure to generations of students and faculty alike. He enjoyed immensely his interaction with students and faculty and from his customary position behind the circulation desk he got to know literally thousands over the years. He made freshmen and new faculty welcome; he followed their careers at Northwestern closely and many kept in touch with him years after they had graduated from the University.

Rolf also served with energy and enthusiasm on countless library committees far too numerous to mention here except for a few that were especially dear to his interests. He was deeply devoted to the well-being of the library and served from its inception as a member of the Library Council, as a member of the Library Council's Program Committee, as a member of the Library Development Advisory Committee and as a member of the Editorial Board of Footnotes, the publication of the Library Council. Another of Rolf's delights was his service as editor of The Lantern's Core, the library's staff newsletter. Also dear to Rolf's heart was his long service as chair of the library's Green Committee which enhanced the library's interior decor with a multitude of green plants.

Rolf made numerous other contributions to Northwestern University and among the ones that he was proudest of was his many years of service as a Faculty Associate at Willard Residential College where he helped shepherd thousands of students through their four years at the University.

During the twenty-six years that Rolf spent at the Northwestern University Library, Rolf pursued a second career as a scholar and historian of the Norwegian-American experience. He was deeply involved in the activities of the Norwegian-American community in the Chicago area and elsewhere and served as a member and officer of many Norwegian-American organizations.

Perhaps the two activities that occupied the majority of Rolf's time and energy were Vesterheim, the Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa and the Norwegian-American Historical Association in Northfield, Minnesota. Rolf served Vesterheim in many ways, especially in the areas of fund-raising and the acquisition of art for the Museum's collections and as a Trustee and Secretary of the Vesterheim Executive Board. He also served the Norwegian- American Historical Association in many capacities, most recently as the organization's First Vice President. In recognition of Rolf's long record of distinguished service to the Norwegian- American community, King Olav V of Norway bestowed upon him the St. Olav Medal in 1985.

Rolf's interest in the Scananavian-American cultural heritage was ecumenical. This was born out by his record of service to the Swedish-American Historical Society, of which he served as a member of the Executive Committee.

Rolf was a skilled, graceful and prolific writer as attested by his number of contributions to the literature in the fields of library history and biography, genealogy and Norwegian-American history. He co-edited three books and authored over three dozen articles, the most recent of which focused on Norwegian-American art and music in Chicago. Rolf was also active in many other organizations and his life-long love of books was evidenced by his membership in and activities on behalf of the Caxton Club.

On November 2, 1992 Rolf passed away after a valiant eighteen month battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He is survied by his stepmother, Mrs. June Chomczyk; his sister Janet Keup and brother-in-law Allen Keup; his nieces Jennifer and Erika Keup and nephew Paul Keup; his cousin Kjersti Usler, and Kjersti's daughter Katrine; his cousin Lois Freidel and her husband Ray and, indeed, all of us who were his friends. We are all the better for having known Rolf; we are the lesser with his passing. We will miss him deeply.

Administrative Information

Repository: Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum Archives

Alternate Extent Statement: 6 large boxes

Use Restrictions: May be reproduced with written permission from Vesterheim collections staff or executive director.

Acquisition Method: Gift

Processing Information: PastPerfect ID: E7280B16-6EE1-4117-A108-433122922171

Box and Folder Listing

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[Box 2],
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Box 5Add to your cart.
Contains slides of Norwegian American artists and artworks, specifically those related to the National Gallery in Oslo and Vesterheim landmarks; cassette tapes of interviews with artists, specifically with Marion Nelson and Rolf Erickson, and also tapes of Vesterheim events; and musical scores.