Director/Curator of the Pioneer Village Museum from its inception in 1971 until her retirement in 1990. Inga was the driving force behind getting the Village started in the first place. While much of her “story” is told elsewhere on this website, her day-to-day contributions were also truly amazing. She treated the Village much as she would have done her own home and spent countless hours of loving care in tending the buildings, displays, and gardens. A source of great pride to Inga was when she would lead a tour of the Village twice each afternoon when it was open. Inga was not only instrumental in persuading local authorities to sell the land for the “Village” to the Society for one dollar, but then spent much energy in finding the buildings, many of which would have been destroyed without her intervention, and seeking the cooperation and funding to get them moved onto the Village grounds. Inga was assisted in many of her efforts by several dedicated board members, who were also avid members of her Garden Club.
Donna was hired by the Pennington County Historical Society in January, 1991, just after Inga Geving had announced her retirement. For the next three years, while Donna was the director, the season for the Village was from May 15 to September 30. Donna wrote several grant applications for building supplies and paint and things of that nature and was successful in getting the things needed to do restorations on several of the buildings, most notably the work on the interior of the Hamre House. With the help of about a dozen young people in the Summer Youth Employment project at the Inter-County Community Council and many local volunteers, much work in the area of re-organizing the buildings and the displays in them was done. Donna’s husband, Jerome, a native of Thief River Falls, who had studied Carpentry at the Area Vocational Technical Institute here, was instrumental in helping to do repairs on the buildings of the Village and directing the restoration work of the young people. Because of Donna’s “other job”, as Community Editor of the Thief River Falls Times, the museum began to receive more media attention under her leadership, as well.
It was during this time that a substantial grant from Ralph Engelstad of Las Vegas and formerly of Thief River Falls, was received and the original work of construction of the Engelstad Building was accomplished. Shortly after Donna’s resignation from her position here, she and Jerome began the project of indexing all 52 cemeteries in Pennington and Red Lake Counties and the obituaries in Pennington, Marshall, and Red Lake Counties. Donna has also, since that time, served on the Pennington County Historical Society board of directors, beginning in 2011 and particularly enjoys her position there as the Society’s secretary.
Director/Curator of the Museum from 1994 through the end of the season in 1997. Bonnie brought a new flourish of activity and music to the Village, with a strong event calendar that has helped to make the Village more popular and well-known than it had previously been. Her first involvement with the Society was in the late 1980’s, when she volunteered to type up the articles for the second Pennington County Historical book. Much of the material for that book was submitted in handwritten form and Bonnie spent many hours getting it into shape for the publisher. She served on the board of directors for the Pennington County Historical Society for the years that Donna was director, and then, after Donna’s resignation, she was hired to serve as director, which she then did for the next four summers. Bonnie was a Special Education teacher during the school year and, because of her tight schedule, the “season” for the museum was then shortened to Memorial Day to Labor Day. Bonnie’s musical talent and gift for recruiting volunteers was much in evidence and, under her leadership, the Village became much better known as an events center for the community.
Director/Curator of the Museum from 1998 until her resignation in 2011. A native of Pennington County, Caryl Bugge, began her activities as a volunteer in 1997, while Bonnie was the director, after Caryl’s retirement as a mathematics teacher in the Twin Cities. She put in countless hours, organizing exhibits, creating computer entries of the museum’s collections, and scanning documents, books and images so they could be indexed and displayed. Without her dedication and personal drive, the depth of purpose and vast expanse of erudition of this current website, would not have been possible.
Caryl also put together a good many fund raising events, submitted many grant applications for the society as a whole, not to pay herself, but to increase awareness of the Historical Society and the museum. After a long period of intense and difficult labor to bring the museum into the new century and endow it with many of the features that are still relied upon today for record-keeping and collections management, in fact a total of about 14 years, Caryl resigned at the end of the 2011 season.
Co-Directors/Curators of the Museum from 2011 thru 2016. Avis and Bill’s involvement at the Pioneer Village Museum began several years before their taking on the responsibilities of its management. Bill was named Maintenence Manager and Avis was Special Events Coordinator in 2008, under Caryl’s leadership of the Museum. When Caryl resigned in 2011, they were asked by the Board of Directors to take on the Co-Directorship of the facility and have served the community ably since that time. Their attention to detail and work in training the summer staff has been outstanding and, during the many and varied community events held on the premises, their presence has been a major asset. Their quiet good-natured approach has led the Village to the point that the “best kept secret of Pennington County” isn’t as much of a secret as it had previously been.
Jamie Bakken is the current director of the Peder Engelstad Pioneer Village museum, having begun her role here during the Fall of 2016. Since that time, she has initiated a number of exciting and creative family events at the Village and has prioritized preservation work on the buildings for herself and her staff over the summer of 2017. Jamie, who also serves the community as the Media Specialist at Challenger Elementary School in Thief River Falls, has been active in the past in assisting with local elementary students’ class tours of the Village for more than a decade.
She extends an enthusiastic invitation to everyone to stop in and see what the Village has to offer!
It is hard to believe that the Peder Engelstad Pioneer Village Museum has been serving the County and its residents and guests for over 40 years now. We can only hope that, with the good fortune of the past, the Pennington County Historical Society will be blessed with equally knowledgeable and hard-working staff in its future and will continue to provide entertainment and education for generations to come.