Locating Lutheranism in the American Religious Landscape: 19th Century Norwegian Congregations in MN

L. DeAne Lagerquist and Nora Uhrich (St. Olaf College)

Locating Lutheranism began with a persistent question, an old book, and the potential of new technology. What might be learned about Norwegian-American Lutherans by paying attention to the names they gave their congregations? Could digital tools be used to analyze and interpret the data O. M. Norlie collected in Norsk Lutherske Menigheter i Amerika? From that question grew a more ambitious project documenting and interpreting Lutheranism in the American religious landscape.

The pilot phase focuses on Norwegian-Americans in Minnesota. It was funded by St. Olaf College’s Digital Humanities on the Hill program. Professor L. DeAne Lagerquist and student Nora Uhrich received technical support from the college’s digital humanities staff and summer interns. Lagerquist encountered Norlie’s work during her dissertation research; much of her scholarship investigates Lutheranism in the USA. Uhrich is a Norwegian, religion, and psychology major.

We will present our web-site and discuss our process. The design emerged in an iterative process as we learned about the technology. We supplemented Norlie with conventional historical sources, site visits, and archival research. St. Olaf’s instructional technologists designed the database and student interns entered data. Because Norlie’s location data is imprecise, we reduced our mapping goals. For four congregations we constructed exhibits modeled on “stories” included on sites such as Cleveland Historical. We used TimelineJS and StorymapsJS for dynamic display of geographic and chronological location.

Future work will continue this project and involve course assignments to add exhibits on other aspects of Lutheranism in the larger American landscape.