What is RISHA?
A Brief History
The Rhode Island Swedish Heritage Association (RISHA) was organized in 2002 to promote Swedish culture in Rhode Island and Southern New England and to generate financial support for a Swedish presence in the new Heritage Harbor Museum in Providence. Even though the museum project has foundered, our focus has not changed: to collect stories, photographs, and artifacts to document Swedish history in our area, with the ultimate goal of housing the collection for future generations to enjoy.
During its brief existence, RISHA has sponsored a variety of educational, cultural and social events designed to raise awareness of our Swedish heritage and to raise the funds necessary to ensure the success of our mission. RISHA has sponsored Viking lectures, an American Union of Swedish Singers' choral concert, a course in Swedish history, formal banquets with special desserts by Swedish-born Master Chef Mauritz Adolfsson, Swedish genealogical workshops, Swedish dances with instruction, a fund-raising tea in Barrington with entertainment by Rhode Island's own Swedish-born soprano, Birgitta Anderson-Whited, a "Two Centuries of Swedish Music" concert by Kendall and Ellen Svengalis, and a Jussi Björling Centennial Concert at the Park Theater. Bus trips to Ellis Island and the "Kristina" English-language premier in NYC were also well received. We have celebrated various Swedish holidays, such as Lucia Day, Midsommar, and Tjugondedag Jul, as well as taught Swedish traditions at well known holidays, like Christmas and Easter. We also encourage local children to learn of our customs by including them in our celebrations, as well as holding events just for them.
Beginning in the late 19th century, Swedes began leaving their homeland in large numbers, most settling in the United States. Today, their descendants across the United States are attempting to document and catalog this diaspora and preserve the connection to the land they left behind.
RISHA's primary objective is to document and preserve the record of this immigrant experience and the contributions Swedish-Americans have made to the life of Southern New England. To that end, we are collecting artifacts, paintings, photographs, and oral histories, with the goal of housing everything in a room or rooms for future generations to research and enjoy.
We also plan to translate and update Svenskarna i Rhode Island (The Swedes in Rhode Island), originally published by the Svea Press in 1915.
Our major goal is to produce a professional-quality documentary film that will tell the story of the Swedes who settled in Rhode Island, of their heritage and culture, and the influences, achievements, and contributions of Swedes to the life and culture of Rhode Island and Southern New England. Connecticut and Massachusetts Swedish communities and groups will also be recognized and documented. This will include our social and cultural organizations, the Vasa Order of America, singing societies, churches, and the contributions of the Swedish-Americans to the life and economy of Southern New England.
If you share our vision of a permanent Swedish visual exhibit and documentary, we encourage you to join us today with a membership.
Click here for membership information.