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The History of Solvang, the Heritage of Denmark  
Past Exhibits


Film Stills by Merie Weismiller Wallace, SMPSP

In fall of 2004, the comedy-drama film Sideways debuted on screens around the country and directed a spotlight to the rural beauty of the Santa Ynez Valley. With this film, director Alexander Payne focused attention on the area’s flourishing wine and food industry and all of the local flavor. Ten years later, the “Sideways effect” continues as visitors follow in the footsteps of the movie’s characters and seek out specific local destinations and experiences.


To mark the 10th anniversary of the award-winning film, Elverhøj Museum of History and Art presents “Looking Back Sideways,” a photography exhibition opening October 4. The display features iconic images from the film and a look behind-the-scenes as captured by Merie Weismiller Wallace, member of the Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers.

The Opening Reception will be held on Saturday October 4 from 4 to 6 pm. The public is invited to join in the celebration of Wallace’s work which will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the film’s debut. There is no charge for admission.

The photographs on display include many Valley residents who found themselves in front of the camera alongside cast members Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh. Sideways director Alexander Payne, noted for frequently using actual people in roles of minor characters in his movies, enjoyed letting Valley residents help to authenticate the story and settings. Photographer Merie Wallace, working alongside Payne, observed: “The rural beauty of the Valley combined with the cast of local characters to become the unique canvas and context on which the absurd and hilarious tragedy of Sideways unfolded.”

On Saturday November 1, Photographer Merie W. Wallace will talk about her experiences on location with cast and crew. The public is invited to the free presentation of “Shooting Sideways” at 4 p.m. in the Museum Gallery. Wallace is widely known for her still photographic work in feature film production, but also contributes to various publications and gallery exhibits. She received her Master’s degree from USC Film School, and has since worked around the world with noted filmmakers including Clint Eastwood, James Cameron, Alexander Payne, Kathryn Bigelow, and Terrence Malick. A member of the Society for Motion Picture Still Photographers (SMPSP), she served as president for two years.

“Looking Back Sideways” will remain on exhibit through November 2. 

Elverhoj Around TownPop up galleries in 5 Solvang locations now

Elverhøj Museum of History and Art is on the move with pop up galleries in two locations around the town of Solvang. The displays, called “Elverhøj Around Town,” occupies space at these Solvang businesses: Montecito Bank and Trust, 591 Alamo Pintado Road, and Petersen Village Inn, 1576 Mission Drive.


Viking PaulElverhøj Museum of History & Art invites visitors to learn more about Scandinavian ancestors of long ago. The new Vikings! display includes stone age Danish tools, replica pieces, and weapons. Informative text and photographs tell of the Vikings’ role in history and in popular culture. For younger explorers, there is a hands-on display table and handouts about the Viking runic “alphabet.”  

“Viking” is a term used by modern scholars to refer to the Nordic-speaking peoples from southern Scandinavia who raided, traded and settled in Europe and the British Isles roughly between A.D. 793-1066. In addition to being the fierce warriors of popular stereotype, Vikings were sailors, shipbuilders, farmers, master artists, craftsmen, shrewd businessmen, and fearless explorers. Their activities stimulated political changes in Europe and Russia; created lasting new societies in Iceland and Greenland; and led to the discovery of North America 500 years before Columbus.

Viking axeThe museum has had the opportunity to add new artifacts to the existing collection. These items include a Viking era sword, an ornamental replica axe, and jewelry.

Schedule a private tour for your group or class by phoning (805) 686-1211 or email info@elverhoj.org.

History, someone has said, is the stories we tell ourselves.  In Elverhøj’s Solvang Room, the so-called Scrapbook on the Wall — a series of large panels of photos and text — tells the stories of Solvang from 1910 to the present. A team of talented people have worked together for many months to assemble this special exhibit.
Just as with a personal scrapbook, material for these history panels has come from a variety of sources. We have rummaged through Elverhøj’s records to find historical treasures: oral history tapes, family genealogies, old letters, personal reminiscences, the museum’s extensive photo collection, local newspaper clippings, school board records, event programs, souvenirs and memorabilia, published and unpublished histories of Solvang, student theses on Solvang, and more.

The World at War      Reinventing Solvang

People have shared their personal photo albums, scrapbooks, and stories with us. Organizations have donated information about themselves. Other museums have generously assisted. A UCSB intern and a Cal State researcher contributed some expertise. Even the Danish embassy got involved and furnished photos of Denmark’s royal family.
What you can now see is a series of important vignettes or stories about key milestones in Solvang’s history rather than a complete and definitive history. The history panels start with Danish immigration to America, progress through the founding and growth of Solvang, and in a generally chronological way, guide the viewer through stories about local culture, influential people, and events. You can also read about Solvang cowboys, how the automobile came to the Valley, how Solvang reinvented itself, the three visits from Danish Royalty, and learn about ring riding and hitting the cat out of barrel, among other things.
Funding generously provided by The Valley Foundation, The Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, MIS Associates, and Premier Imaging Products.


The Elverhøj Museum of History and Art encourages art exhibition proposal submissions from individual artists and artist groups. The guidelines are intended to help expedite the review of these submissions by insuring that each proposal is as complete as possible. Proposals for exhibitions at the Elverhøj must include both written and visual components.

A copy of the artist proposal guidelines is available for download.

Click to DownloadArtist Exhibition Proposal Procedures PDF (or DOC version)
Click to DownloadArtist GROUP Exhibition Proposal Procedures PDF (or DOC version)

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