By Kay Braddock
A collection of over 900 Evelyn Cameron photographs will remain in Prairie County. That announcement, made by Evelyn Cameron Heritage board members last week, signals the end to a long-awaited goal to acquire the photos from the Deppe family.
“It’s been a very long process,” said Glenda Ueland, chairperson for the group, pointing out it’s been the ultimate goal of many individuals from the very beginning of the Cameron promotions.
“We’ve always wanted to keep that collection in Terry,” Ueland said. She pointed out that much of the original work began with Economic Development Council members, Lance Kalfell, Sharla Sackman and Elisa Leach. “They persevered and kept the focus. … (They) passed the torch on to us.”
The heritage group, formerly known as the Evelyn Cameron Foundation, formed in 2000, as a sub-committee of the EDC. Funds raised through annual galas hosted by the heritage group were used to purchase the photos. The group, which has been in negotiations with the Deppe family for over a year, signed a five-year contract in October. Once an appraisal of the photos was completed, the deal closed April 15, according to Ueland.
The Deppe family is donating three-quarters of the collection. Steve Deppe, along with four siblings, were heirs to the photographs, which had been stored in the basement of Janet Williams, a good friend of Cameron’s, who inherited the collection.
“This is such a treasure for Prairie County,” Ueland said, noting the Cameron photographs give a true depiction of the area’s lifestyle during that era.
“After watching what Custer County lost, when they lost the Huffmans, we wanted to keep this here,” Ueland said referring to photographs taken by L.A. Huffman, which were sold to an outside group. Groups within Custer County have been working since then to acquire those photos and bring them back to the area.
Cameron photographs were taken between 1894 and 1928, after she and husband Ewen made their home near Terry.
The acquired collection includes a photograph series showing XIT cattle crossing the Yellowstone River, as well as other wildlife and nature subjects.
Noting Cameron’s eye for visionary subject matters, Ueland described several other photographs in the collection.
“She didn’t have a wide lens,” Ueland said, pointing out Cameron’s determination to achieve a desired angle included climbing on boxcars and rooftops.
With the photos now in possession, the heritage group will move forward with their project of refurbishing the old Rialto Theater, according to Ueland. So far, the building, which was acquired by the group last summer, has been cleaned out, with a new roof and rain gutters installed. Noting that the basement still needs to be cleared of debris, Ueland said the group’s summer goals for the building include dismantling the current bathrooms and removing the fabric from the walls on the main floor. Completing heating and plumbing restoration will be another significant step in the restoration process.
Mike Stevenson, a Miles City architect, who has donated his time on the project, has drawn up plans for the building, which will serve as a cultural art center. A collection of Cameron photos will be displayed in a designated room, along with the artwork of other area artists.
“The goal is to make Terry, Montana a destination,” Ueland said, noting visitors will have several venues to see the historical and cultural artwork of the area, including the county museum and Cameron Gallery, as well as the area’s natural attractions.
“Perhaps rather than spending a few hours here, (visitors) would spend the day in Terry.”
Published April 22, 2009