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Steve Browne, Valley City Times-Record, Published September 11 2009

Barnes County museum shows Peggy Lee items

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – For Wes Anderson, wishes sometimes come true.

When Anderson heard from Holly Foster Wells, granddaughter of the late singer Peggy Lee, that some of the entertainer’s belongings were going on the auction block in California, he knew he wanted to bring some of it to the Barnes County Historical Society Museum.

Anderson, the museum’s curator, e-mailed the members of the Midland Continental Railroad Depot Restoration Committee in Wimbledon. The Wimbledon Community Museum is restoring the Midland Continental Railroad Depot in the community.

“Gosh, I wish we could afford to buy these,” Wes Anderson wrote.

In a few weeks, the items arrived.

Lee was born in Jamestown in 1920, went to school in Wimbledon and lived in the apartment above the depot, where her father was stationmaster. She died in 2002 at age 81.

An anonymous donor provided money to buy three dresses, an original painting by Lee and a hat, said Carol Peterson, president of the depot restoration committee. The bid was entered by Los Angeles resident Janna Joos, who grew up in Wimbledon and graduated from the high school in the early 1970s.

“I got hold of Janna, who lives close to (Los Angeles),” Peterson said, “and she said, ‘Sure,’ and went and bid on them.”

Peterson said an anonymous donor committed up to $2,500 to buy a dress.

“We got three dresses, the painting and a hat for $1,200,” she said.

The Wimbledon Community Museum has loaned the items to the Barnes County museum to display for the purpose of promoting the Midland Continental Railroad Depot Restoration project. The oil painting will be displayed when it arrives, Wes Anderson said.

Valley City resident Gail Anderson helped create the display.

Anderson has worked in costuming for stage work, professional theater and amateur theater at the junior high school, high school and college levels. She has taught costuming and acting at Emporia State University in Kansas, Purdue University in Indiana and North Dakota State University.

“Fabrics deteriorate over time,” Gail Anderson said, “just from the simple fact of wearing it. Body oils damage fabric, so you have to be careful touching it so as not to add oil or food on your hands.”

Gail Anderson said the costumes had to be hung on dressmaker dummies in a way that supports the weight of the costumes, to keep them from tearing and stretching. The costumes are heavy because of the beads sewn on them. And they should be kept out of direct sunlight.

“This type of artifact wouldn’t be put in a window display,” Gail said. “When storing them, it’s best they be put flat in an acid-free box.”

The items will be on display for about a year, Wes Anderson said.