Backstage Pass to North Dakota History

This blog takes you behind the scenes of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Get a glimpse at a day-in-the-life of the staff, volunteers, and partners who make it all possible. Discover what it takes to preserve North Dakota's natural and cultural history. We encourage dialogue, questions, and comments!

Peggy Lee, Powwows, and Hockey: Acquiring “Fashion & Function” Exhibit Loans in the Time of COVID-19

Our registration staff at the State Historical Society of North Dakota is tasked with completing the paperwork for and transportation of incoming exhibit loans. We ask individuals, museums, and companies for loans of objects to fill gaps in our collection for the purpose of creating a more complete exhibit. For the upcoming Fashion & Function: North Dakota Style exhibit at the State Museum, created by our own staff, we requested and received 11 loans ranging from a pair of jeans to Cara Mund’s Miss America gown.

Our collection does not have much Native American powwow clothing that is sturdy enough to be on exhibit for the two-year duration of Fashion & Function. As a result, we turned to other museums in neighboring states to fulfill our need.

Discussions with the Minnesota Historical Society began in January 2020. First, we identified the pieces we wanted to borrow for the exhibit by searching their online database. We came across a woman’s jingle dress and a child’s grass dance outfit in their collection that would be perfect additions to our exhibit. They then required us to fill out a General Facility Report about the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum. The report asked everything from what material the walls were made of to how far the building is located from the closest fire station. It took us a few months to complete the report, and then COVID-19 struck. We pivoted to telecommuting from home, while the staff from Minnesota was also sent home for a time. Due to the pandemic, it was November before Head of Curatorial Services Melissa Thompson and Jenny Yearous, curator of collections management, drove to St. Paul to pick up the loaned dress and child’s outfit. Our internal loan policy states that loans in transit must be accompanied by a curator at all times. So during the drive back to Bismarck, either Jenny or Melissa stayed with the boxed loan in the vehicle. They took turns using restrooms and relied on drive-thrus for meals.

The inside back of a vehicle with a white box loaded in it. A white van can be seen through the back window.

The loans from the Minnesota Historical Society were transported in a box made of coroplast, which is a corrugated archival material.

One of the loans from the Minnesota Historical Society was a jingle dress completed by Orvilla Longfox (1956-2020) of Cloquet, Minnesota, in 2016. Longfox was an artist who revitalized the ancient art of quillwork learned from her mother. She was renowned worldwide for her traditional artwork with dyed quills and buckskin. Her work is featured in museums and businesses, as well as in private collections.

A tan dress with blue flowers and green vines on the chest into shoulders and arms. There are strips of flowers and vines along the lower portion of the dress with deer toes hanging down to make the dress jingle.

This hide, hoof, and quill jingle dress on loan from the Minnesota Historical Society features floral-and-butterfly quillwork designs and deer toes for jingles. The dress took Orvilla Longfox one and a half years to create, partly due to collecting and cleaning the deer hooves and quills.

Meanwhile, the boy’s grass dance outfit, below, was made by Kirstie Davis Deyhle of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe for her son Loyn Deyhle during the winter of 2001-2002 and altered as Loyn grew. It was worn at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum Memorial Day powwows in 2002, 2003, and 2004.

Maroon collared short sleeved shirt and pants with a bright orange chest plate emboridered with green, blue. red, yellow, and white flowers and butterflies. There are teal, orange and yellow strings of beads or yarn coming out of the sides and bottom of the chest plate. There is also an orange piece around the waist that hangs down to the knee area as well as wrist cuffs that look similar to the chest plate. Around the ankles are tan cuffs with silver bells attached to them.

Ojibwe boy’s grass dance outfit from the Minnesota Historical Society.

Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson (born July 3, 1989), a North Dakota native from Grand Forks, played for the now-defunct University of North Dakota women’s hockey team. Her skills earned her a place on the U.S. Women’s National Team. She won six gold medals and one silver medal at the women’s world hockey championships. She was also a member of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey teams at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, in 2010, and Sochi, Russia, in 2014. At the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Jocelyn scored the game-winning goal to win the gold for Team USA.

When we heard that Jocelyn and her twin sister Monique Lamoureux-Morando were going to be inducted into the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Hall of Fame at the North Dakota State Capitol last summer, the agency got in touch with the governor’s office and was able to get Jocelyn’s contact information. Jocelyn kindly offered one of her USA hockey jerseys and her 2009 IIHF World Women’s Championship gold medal to the Fashion & Function exhibit. Ideally, she would have travelled to Bismarck to drop off the items or Melissa would have travelled to Grand Forks to pick up the items. Due to the pandemic, however, we put our trust in the U.S. Postal Service to transport these items. They arrived safe and sound and will be on display in the exhibit’s sports section.

A blue hockey jersey with red around the neck, white patches on the arms, white and red down the inside of the arms, and a thick white and thinner red band around the bottom of the jersey. In the middle of the jersey is a logo that says USA in blue with a white outline. The bottom half of the S is red and turns into a waving flag. The inside of the A is a white star.

Front view of Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson’s jersey from the 2009 world women’s hockey championships.

The back of a jersey that's navy blue with a thick white band and thinner red band around the bottom of the jersey. The arms have white patches on them towards the middle. J. Lamoureux is listed in white at the top of the jersey, and 17 is listed under it in large white lettering outlined in red.

The back view of the same jersey with its J. Lamoureux nameplate.

A gold medal with a goalie and hockey player skating with their stick up in the air as if trying to score a goal. The part that goes around the neck is blue with a thin white and thicker red borders and reads IIHF repeatedly in white lettering.

Check out the bling. Here is Lamoureux-Davidson’s 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Women's Championship gold medal.

Born in Jamestown, Peggy Lee (1920-2002) was an acclaimed musician and actress. Elise Dukart, assistant registrar, knows her best as the voice of Peg from Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp.” The State Historical Society did not have any artifacts in the museum collection to showcase the famous singer’s life and fashion style, so we reached out to Peggy Lee Associates LLC in California for assistance in February 2020. The exhibit team decided to borrow a beautiful dress worn by Lee in the early 1940s.

Like Lamoreaux-Davidson’s items, Lee’s dress also needed to be shipped from its location.

Holly Foster Wells, Lee’s granddaughter and president of Peggy Lee Associates LLC, had intended to bring it in person in July 2020 during a Peggy Lee centennial year celebration scheduled in Jamestown and Wimbledon. But the pandemic prevented her from travelling, and the celebration was postponed. The dress was shipped to the Historical Society in July.

A tan box that looks smooshed with a lot of tape on it and a black arrow on the end that looks like a smiling mouth

Peggy Lee’s dress for the exhibit arrived in this bruised and battered box.

Unfortunately, the box containing the dress arrived damaged. The registration team took photos of the box and contacted the Lee organization to alert them of the situation. The dress was then removed from the box, and its condition was assessed. Additional photos were sent to Peggy Lee Associates LLC. Thankfully, the dress was not damaged during shipment. It currently happily resides on a mannequin amid the other dressed forms waiting to go on exhibit.

A light green short sleeved dress with tan lace covering it.

A dress worn by the singer and actress in the 1940s was borrowed from Peggy Lee Associates LLC.

We are grateful to all those who worked with us to obtain loans for Fashion & Function during these trying times of the pandemic. This exhibit, opening in February, will be more complete because of these items.

This blog was co-written by Elise Dukart.

“PrehiStories”: How My Mosasaur Rhymes Inspired a Children’s Book

We have a family poem—yes, you read that right. When I was itty-bitty, my dad would come in to wake me up, chiming a poem. (I just learned this poem was a somewhat altered version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Time to Rise.”) Dad’s take went like this:

Birdie with a yellow bill,
Hopped upon my window sill,
Cocked his shining little head,
“Get up you sleepy head!”

Over the years, my family added new and different verses to the poem, depending on the situation. For instance, during one winter cold snap, where many days fell below zero degrees, it went like this:

Birdie with a yellow bill,
Frozen to my window sill,
Can’t cock his shining little head,
Oh my gosh, I think he’s dead!

Thus rhyming, verse, and alliteration were very important methods of communication in my family—and the habit has stuck with me over the years. During the summer of 2018, while conducting the Pembina Gorge Fossil Dig, inspiration struck. We had been excavating a partial skeleton of a mosasaur (a type of marine reptile you can view on display at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum) and were taking a dinner break. Sitting around the table with friends and colleagues, I began coming up with mosasaur rhymes. I struck on a fun rhythm—a couplet with 10 beats per measure.

Sit all around, and I’ll tell you a tale:
Meet our friend Mosasaur, big as a whale!

Well, that was a fun intro! I wondered how much I could write about mosasaurs before running out of ideas and giving up? The evening stretched on, and I bounced ideas off of Clint Boyd, senior paleontologist with the North Dakota Geological Survey, and fossil preparator Trissa Ford, who were also on the dig with me. By the end, we had figured out most of a book filled with an array of mosasaur facts. The mosasaur was not a dinosaur. It lived in the water. Some were big; some were small. They had different diets, had live births, and breathed air. The list kept going, and it was fun to read, so my bosses with the North Dakota Geological Survey decided I should make a children’s book, illustrate it in a fun way, make it relatable to kids, and include a few extra fact bubbles to fill in some of the complex ideas.

A storyboard with 15 boxes and sketches in 11 of them. The sketches go through a mososaur story.

This is the start of my storyboard layout, where I played around with design and action.

Storyboard of four sketches. The first is the head of a lizard looking creature. The second is a plate with a fish and squid on it. Silverware sit around the plate. The third is the skull of a mososaur. The forth is a mososaur wearing a crown and holding a trident while he he peeks out of the water with some mountains and palm trees in the background.

These are more refined storyboard sketches, before inking and watercolors have been added.

Four storyboard drawings showing the progression of finalizing a drawing from less detailed to finished piece. The drawing is of a white plate with a light green colored fish and a pink and purple squid on it and gold silverware around the plate.

Before the storyboard got too far, I needed to figure out the feel for the book. I took a page I knew I wanted to use, drew it up four times, and experimented with pencils, ink, shading, and color.

After sketching some test runs, I settled on an ink-and-watercolor style. Not too much detail, but not too little either. All were done with bright colors. The next few weeks were spent painting, painting, painting! My storyboard was printed and taped to my desk—as I finished one page, the storyboard would get a nice big X over the image. It was very satisfying to see the to-do list shrink and the ready-to-scan pile grow.

Painting of an underwater scene where a blue and white creature is eating a green colored fish and a green and white creature is eating a pink and tan squid. Only the heads of the creatures are shown.

A fully painted page.

Once everything was painted and scanned, I had to put the images, text, and facts together in the computer. To be honest, this fiddling, placing, and tweaking probably took more time than the writing and painting. However, I am pleased with the result. Coming up with a title for the project was also fun. Since it’s a prehistoric setting about a mosasaur, and  “-storic” sounds pretty close to “story,” what if we made it a “PrehiStory”? But wait! What if we make up other stories in the future? Then it could be: “PrehiStories”!

Painting of an underwater scene where a green fish and a blue fish are looking at a large purple and blue creature with puffed out cheeks. Text on the painitng reads Fish come with gills to breath underwater, A mosasaur lung breathes air like an otter.

And finally, here is the painted page with text overlay.

Thus was born, “PrehiStories: Mosasaur.” If you’d like to pick up your own copy, they’re available at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum gift shop.

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Here is a bonus bird verse from my childhood. My dad had gone boating, and while hopping out of the craft, injured his arm quite badly, which inspired the following rhyme:

Birdie with a yellow beak,
Caught his wing upon a cleat
Turned his head to take a peek,
“Oh my gosh I’ve sprung a leak!”