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Museum open for 2020 season

By Staff | Jun 11, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Marilyn Niewoehner stands near a dress form holding an undergarment from her display illustrating the steps to getting dressed for women in the Victorian era.  The underpinnings are on display at Rugby's Prairie Village Museum.

Rugby’s Prairie Village Museum opened for the 2020 season with a few changes in store for visitors.

To follow North Dakota Smart Restart guidelines, the museum has reduced its hours to 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The museum will be closed on Wednesdays and weekends until further notice, according to a museum press release.

The museum kicked off the summer with a pop-up art display and garment exhibit produced and curated by local artist Marilyn Niewoehner.

Museum staffer Katelyn Duchscher and board member Michelle Lake were on hand last week to open the season to visitors. Lake, who serves as board treasurer, spent time in the museum office with bookkeeping tasks.

“For what we were expecting, we have seen quite a few people come in,” Ducscher said. “It’s surprising how many people are traveling. So, they come through and stop by. They’ll stop in our gift shop and say, ‘hi.'”

Duchscher said the museum’s board is currently searching for a director. In the meantime, she noted, “Our board members are doing a really good job of keeping everything together and organized, and people are working together.”

Lake said of last week’s visitors, “I didn’t think we’d have this many people.”

Duchscher said visitors have told her “lots of good things” about the museum. “Every year I’ve worked here, people have been saying the same thing- they didn’t expect the things we had in the back, and how big it was, and how much there was to look at,” she noted.

“This is probably one of the best places in town to visit, because you can still keep your distance while still having a good time and doing something with your family,” Duchscher added.

“Marilyn Niewoehner has the art exhibit and we also have a display on how a woman would get dressed in the 1880s. All those garments are hers,” Duchscher said.

“Queen Victoria’s dress is still here, too,” Duchscher added.

Marilyn Niewoehner was in the museum last week to make minor adjustments to her display, titled, “Getting Dressed in the 1880s.”

Niewoehner pointed to seven dress forms illustrating the steps involved in getting dressed for women in the Victorian era. At the end of the line of dressed forms stood a mannequin dressed in a black gown modeled after the dress Medora de Mores, the woman for whom the town of Medora, North Dakota was named.

“All of those are authentic, Niewoehner said of the undergarments. “They were given to me by Martin Voeller about 25 or 30 years ago.” Voeller is a descendant of Pierce County settlers.

Niewoehner walked through the line of dress forms, each holding a delicate cotton and lace undergarment more than 130 years old.

“You start out with step number one. They’re the French drawers,” she said, pausing next to a pair of loose, white cotton undershorts trimmed with lace. “Step number two, you put on your chemise. Step number three, you have your shoes and stockings. Step number four, you put your corset on top of your chemise and your drawers,” she added.

Why would the shoe and stocking step come in the middle of the process?

“Because once you get your corset on, you can’t reach your toes,” Niewoehner explained. “You can’t bend like that,” she added, bending at her waist. “You have to get them on first.”

“Then, you have your corset cover,” Niewoehner added. “On top of that, you have your petticoats and on top of your petticoats, you have your bustle. (The mannequin) is suggesting that she’s got all this on under this,” she said, stopping near the reproduction of the Medora Des Mores dress.

“Granted, some of these things may not have been worn by a farmer’s wife (or woman working on a hot day),” Niewoehner noted, “But they would have had their French drawers; they would have had a camisole; they would have had a corset. They may not have worn it every day. They would’ve had petticoats; they would’ve had chemises and camisoles. They may not have worn them all every day, but you would’ve had them.”

Would Medora de Mores have worn the black dress and all the underpinnings to go on a buffalo hunt with her husband, the Marquis Des Mores?

“She would’ve been dressed in all this to go out on (hunting trips), any given day,” Niewoehner said.

Niewoehner said that because she owns the collection of underpinnings, she would keep them at the museum for an indefinite time. She also said she would maintain the collection on her own.

The museum gallery will feature Niewoehner’s paintings throughout the month of June.

Museum information provided to the Tribune read,”Prairie Village Museum has many displays of history of the local community and the state. A new addition to the museum grounds is the Germans from Russia Historical Building, which was completed last fall. Work on Exterior signage and interior displays will be ongoing throughout the season. Stop in to see the progress of this building honoring and telling the story of the immigrants to this area from the Ukraine.”

“We would like to reach out to all members and former members to continue to support the museum by renewing, continuing or taking out a new membership,” the information added. “Membership prices have been reduced to $40.00 for a family, $25.00 for an individual membership.”

The information continued, “Support of Prairie Village Museum is an investment in the community. The museum is a hidden gem in the State of North Dakota. It is the goal of the PVM board to make more people in the state aware of this gem and expand what we have in the Geographical Center of North America. Make this your destination location.”

“Memberships may be sent to Prairie Village Museum, 102 Hwy 2 SE, Ste. A, Rugby, ND 58368 or stop in during open hours. Prairie Village Museum is a Blue Star museum. Follow us on www.facebook/Prairievillagemuseum.com.”

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